Don’t Judge a Book by its Old Cover

When I was a medical resident, I lived in a cool rental community in Ann Arbor.  It was filled with young physician, nurse and other young professionals.  It had a real Melrose Place feel.  There were just more of us than there were on the television show so we didn’t have to keep dating each other.

In the midst of that hormone fueled housing lived Betty.  She lived across the courtyard from me. She was a 91 year old retired school teacher from Buffalo. I have no idea how she ended up there, but she was a great lady who watered her flowers and kept an eye on the complex while we were all at work.

One day I helped Betty carry in her groceries. There on her table sat a macintosh computer.  You have to remember that this was around 25 years ago.  It had the cut black and white screen and was connected to the telephone line.

“Betty, you have a computer?” I asked incredulously.

“Oh, of course.  I love it.  I play card games during the day and I send emails to my grandchildren.”

Bear in mind, this was made Betty a very early adopter in email.

“There’s one thing I need to do.  On account of my arthritis, I can’t grip the mouse, so use the rollerball.”  There, beside her Mac, sat a large plastic ball device.

I was fascinated by the clever adaptation that this elderly woman with twisted hands had made.  This simple change allowed her hours of entertainment and easy communication with distant loved ones.

A few years ago Mia came into my office.  Mia is a cool lady.  She’s a writer who now paints. Her love is painting of dogs. (I have one of my mutt, Finn)  She came in with her walker.  Her walker had two adaptations.  It had the tennis balls on its feet and it had a pouch along the handles that held a Kindle.  Did I mention that, at that time, Mia was 99 years old.  “I love my Kindle!” she exclaimed, “I can have all of my books with me all of the time.  It’s light weight and I can make the print as big as I want.”

Since that day I get frustrated with every iPad ad that focusses on attractive young men and women.  The kids will all have devices and they’ll be fickle.  But I promise you that Mia stayed in her Amazon ecosystem for the rest of her life.  Seniors may need a little more hand holding and salesmanship, but the rewards are transformational.

Having developed a web based platform for seniors (and/or their loved ones) to manage their care needs, I am often amazed by the gross ageism that I am greeted with.  “You don’t expect a senior to do this,” I’m told.  Those who underestimate the sophistication of seniors, who will only grow more and more tech savvy are destined to miss out on large profits and the opportunity to change lives.