I saw on the news the recently that by the year 2020, nearly three-quarters of Canadians will find themselves on the ‘plus side’ of 50. Of course, despite the fact that many are calling 70 ‘the new 50’, most associated with the study of aging and its impact on society agree that once you hit 50, regardless of whether you have a ‘new’ or ‘old’ perception, it’s going to be a downhill slide.
In the same item, they went on to suggest that despite it being a downhill slide, there is no need to close the windows, open the oven and turn the gas on! Corresponding to the declines we’re seeing in our senses associated with aging, there is a corresponding trend of clever new technologies designed to make aging much more manageable and in some cases, much less embarrassing. Whether it’s our memory, our vision, our hearing, or our fine motor skills that are beginning to dim — and, according to the experts, they will diminish — thankfully, there are new technologies is coming to the rescue.
Likely the most important gains are being made with respect to our gray matter. From on-line companies like Luminosity, Brain Metrix, Fit Brains and Mind Games (to name a few) offer games and exercises designed to work your brain like physical exercises work your muscles. Similarly, software like Nintendo’s Brain Age are chock full of puzzles that keep speed and thinking skills polished and the brain researchers can point to clear proof that it does pay off for almost everyone. Some, notably Dakim’s BrainFitness software, is geared for those over 60, has been clinically tested and although it costs $249 US, it proven to improve cognitive function. Regardless of which method you employ, finding a ‘brain coach’ program can clearly help a diminishing memory/mind.
With an amazing improvement in optical surgery, most notably through the use lasers, there is no longer a need to accept poor vision. Technology behind glasses and contacts has also come leaps and bounds in the last two decades. Even LED lights are improving vision; their small size, high lumen output and low power consumption make them ideal for attaching to glasses or miniature book clamps, making seeing in poor light a breeze. Using such a device can keep you from any number of regrettable decisions. Have you ever tried to order off of a menu by candlelight? Or, with so many of today’s smartphones, you can just light up the room with one of the dozens of free downloadable flashlight apps. What a bright idea!
What was that you said? We now know that nearly four million Canadians face age-related hearing loss; while improved detection and testing has contributed to that number, more often than not is came as a result of poor listening habits in the past. Not using hearing protection, or ignoring the proper use the sound protection, have all helped to create the situation that we are all facing today. But wait; companies like SoundFest are banking on the fact that baby boomers are going to pair their cellphones everywhere, gaining improved hearing assistance right through your own cellphone by using existing Bluetooth earpieces!
Diminishing Motor Skills?
One of the greatest concerns today is that of the aging driver behind the wheel of a vehicle. In April of 2014, it was revealed that in British Columbia, the majority of residents are deeply concerned about this issue… and admitted to having no idea how to raise the issue with their own parents!
Again, technology is stepping up to keep us driving with more competency, for longer. Lexus and then Ford kicked off the assistive race with their self-parking vehicles. Mercedes, Infiniti and GM, among many, seem to have more electronic devices and sensors to take of driving functions for a driver than it does bolts on the wheels! Blind lane monitoring, lane-change assist, 360 degree camera systems and adaptive cruise control are just a few such systems. Volvo and Mercedes drivers can order driver alert and detection systems to warn them when a pedestrian makes a ‘bee-line’ off the sidewalk or when you’re low on caffeine. Your car can actually help you keep your blood glucose levels up through unusual alliances like this from Ford, Microsoft, Healthrageous and BlueMetal Architects.
Ultimately we’re looking at a future where cars will drive themselves. LIDAR, Google’s self-driving vehicle project, uses a spinning array of laser receivers and emitters to create a 360-degree map of the road. Most components of driver-less cars: cameras, GPS, accelerometers, radar and ultrasound already exist. It is only a question of just how car manufacturers (and their lawyers!) will package them together.
Naturally, there’s another, opposite angle to consider. Perhaps getting older and succumbing to diminishing senses, like not seeing or hearing so well, is actually a blessing. Many believe that aging is simply nature’s way of getting us to slow down and forcing us to enjoy what we have spent most of our life earning the opportunity to do. Relax, go slow! Diminishing senses may be nothing more than our evolutionary protection. And now, thanks to these ever-improving and newer technologies, we might never get the chance to appreciate what it took centuries of human evolution to develop!