nine The future of technology use among older adults in continuing care retirement communities
Developments in the world of technology
In the Academy Award-nominated 2002 film Minority Report, Tom Cruise plays a leader in a special division of a fictional Washington, DC, police force called PreCrime in the year 2054. The film paints a picture of a technologically advanced American society that uses a variety of (at the time) fictional gadgets to fight crime and to accomplish simple everyday tasks. A striking image from the film comes toward the beginning, with Tom Cruise's Captain John Anderton standing in front of a large computer screen. The screen Anderton is viewing contains a series of images that provide clues to a crime about to be committed, and he is cycling through the images trying to find anything that can point him in the direction of where the crime will take place so that his team can swoop in and prevent it. But what is striking about the image is that Anderton is not using a keyboard and mouse to navigate through the pictures on the computer screen; instead, he is using his hands to signal to the computer when he wants to switch the images on the screen, zoom in, or zoom out. The computer uses spatial-recognition software to read what Andertons hands are doing—with a sweeping hand movement from left to right, he can move images to the side, and with a flick of the wrist, he can turn an image.
When the film first debuted, a technology such as this was novel—it had never been seen before and existed only in the imaginations of scientists. Telling a computer what you wanted it to do without a keyboard or a mouse! Like much of the other technologies highlighted in the film, such a thing seemed possible only in science fiction (emphasis on "fiction"). But fast-forward to today, and such a technology seems less impossible. Most personal computers have a built-in camera that, although typically used specifically for teleconferencing, could be used for giving spatial- recognition-based instructions in the near future. Many gaming systems now incorporate cameras that can follow what the user is physically doing, giving the user the ability to use his or her own body parts to instruct the system rather than using a keyboard or a handheld controller (this feature is especially popular in sports and dancing-themed videogames). We see a version of the Minority Report software used in many TV shows. Even if personal computers are not yet capable of easily mimicking the spatial recognition shown in Minority Report, the use of a keyboard and mouse is no longer required for many devices—computers can now have touch- based screens so that users need only to touch the computer screen to give commands such as opening or closing programs. Touch-screen interfaces are especially prevalent in smartphone technologies and tablet computers.
The past few decades have produced a number of films that feature fictional technologies that, although at the time seemed impossible to manufacture, have become a reality and are commonplace. The 1999 Academy Award-winning film The Matrix focuses on a society trapped in a virtual world, its inhabitants being unaware that they are in a simulation; today, various online communities and games allow individuals to create avatars and live fictional lives on the Internet, similar to the scenario shown in The Matrix (minus the evil robots, of course). The 2008 action film Eagle Eye features a rogue artificial intelligence that is able to monitor the every movement of the film's characters by using a sophisticated tracking technology and hacking into cameras; today, nearly all handheld devices come with some version of GPS that allows for such tracking (and proves especially helpful when you are lost and in need of directions!). And in the Academy Award-winning 2013 romance Her, a man develops a romantic relationship with a conscious computer operating system; although no technology has yet been developed that mirrors such an advanced and sophisticated artificial intelligence, there exist devices and gadgets designed to provoke an emotional response in users (an example being robots made to look like animals that people may use as pets). These films, when they debuted, featured devices, tools, and alternative realities that seemed improbable—but very quickly, the ideas and technologies they used have become a reality. Perhaps, it is a bit of a cliche, but it is true: the future is now.
The emphasis of the previous chapters has been on basic Internet- connected devices (namely, computers) and how to implement training programs in CCRC settings to teach older residents to successfully use these devices. However, technology goes well beyond just Internet- connected desktop and laptop computers. What exactly does the future hold with regard to technology, and what sort of effects can it have on the residents of CCRCs? There are many exciting developments in the world of technology that offer unique and advantageous features for residents in CCRCs, and the outlook will improve as technology is continually being developed and constantly evolving. This chapter describes only a small sample of the potential new technologies being developed for older adults, and those in CCRCs more specifically (and at the rate technology has been improving over the past decade, it could be that the "future" described in this chapter will be out of date in a matter of a few short years!). This chapter also discusses potential issues associated with some of these "improvements."