Whether it’s checking tomorrow’s weather or sending a quick voice note at the click of a button, there’s no doubt that technology has the ability to impact our lives in a positive way. But how to the older population feel about the adoption of such technologies? And with the speed of advancements accelerating, how can we expect old age to look in 30 years’ time?
Our Real Retirement report revealed that a healthy two in three 65 to 74 year olds feel confident using technology. With the population getting older, there’s in increasing pressure on companies to tailor their innovations to keep the older audience, with a greater spending power, in mind.
Of the over 75s surveyed, two thirds of people (63%) considered themselves technology adopters – a clear sign that they’ve taken steps to acquaint themselves with unfamiliar technologies. Mark Brill, expert in digital media, innovation and futurology, noted that words like ‘adoption’ will become less necessary when in the future:
“We’re going to see more ubiquitous technology, such as Amazon Echo, which doesn’t require adoption. It will just sit in a room and be used. It won’t be long before we stop seeing technology as separate or different.”
An even greater percentage of over 75s (66%) say that technology has already made their lives better – a fact that may be down to the increased ease of managing money, organising healthcare and staying in touch with loved ones.
So, what can we expect from the future? With the likelihood that technology will become more widespread and easier to use, we discussed how that might impact old age in 2047 with the experts.
Although we generally associate tech with gadgets, the future of tech looks to increasingly integrate tech in a more streamlined way:
“Currently there is too much complexity in many of our interfaces”, Brill explains. “Endless alerts on smartphones or smart watches are not a meaningful solution. Future objects will need to be simpler, yet more contextual. Think of the pills that will dispense themselves, or the coat hanger that glows to tell you it’s cold outside. Ultimately the Internet of Things (which includes wearables) is about creating an eco-system of simple, meaningful objects.”
The internet of clothing, much like wearable technology, will allow our clothes to become more digitally intelligent. Brill explains that in 30 years’ time, it’s likely that this kind of technology will be low-cost and widespread: “It will become standard, that a scarf, for example, can monitor vital life signs and raise the alarm in the event of an emergency, such as a fall. This will not be an extra feature, but something that will be woven (or even grown) into fabrics as the norm.”
The way in which tech will impact our health may well see the most significant change. Global futurologist Rohit Talwar spoke to us about the benefits we can expect to see within the next 30 years:
“By 2047, we’ll already have the ability to replace certain limbs and even organs into 3D printed versions. With the possibility of hooking these up to computers even allowing them to change shape and adapt as we age. These additions will be embedded with on body or in body sensors that feed information about our health back to an online network.
“With an emergence of wearables that gives added strength, it’s likely that we will even have clothing for old people that will help us have the same strength as we did in our twenties.”
Both Pearson and Talwar discussed the prospect of ingestible devices, used to either administer drugs or to facilitate internal operations.
Experts predict that virtual assistants will draw on AI to help older people in a number of ways, whether feeding back information about their psychological health, by monitoring verbal responses, or making social experiences more meaningful.
“Virtual assistants using AI and natural language processing can help ‘connect the dots’ and add meaningful context to the internet of things”, explains Brill.
The term ‘singularity’ refers to the concept of man and machine becoming one – namely, hooking your mind up to a digital network known as ‘the cloud’. With the links between IT and humankind becoming ever more extensive, the concept of singularity suggests technological immortality.
Pearson says that such impartiality will be accessible to anyone under 40: “They’ll be able to turn up to work on Monday having been at their own funeral on the Sunday afternoon. What’s more, this increase in IQ would allow you do as much thinking as you could do in 30 million years in one second.”
Of course, this level of technological development could pose some more complicated issues, as Brill explains:
“If you believe in the singularity then 2047 will be the point at which computing has reached its greatest power. Machines will have an IQ of 10,000. Then, the question becomes somewhat different. Technology will certainly improve people’s physical lives, but the issue becomes more philosophical. Will we become slaves to computers, or will we welcome our robot overlords?”
There’s undoubtedly room for technology to have an increasingly positive effect on older people’s lives, but as Brill notes, “The tools that technology offers can provide considerable improvements to lives if they are relevant, connected and contextual.”
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