Monday, June 13, 2016

"When So-Called Conveniences Turn Out Not To Be So Helpful"

Modern technology and innovation has transformed our cars, office space, and homefronts into an environment that many of us might not have foreseen twenty years ago. Cellphones didn't exist, a couple of megabytes of storage was considered to be a lot - no one was even talking about gigabytes, Wi-Fi and the internet weren't around, and the need to charge all of our devices wasn't there because the instruments weren't available yet either. 

We love all of the modern conveniences - well, most of us, most of the time. They have been welcomed into our homes in a big way. But some so-called labor-saving devices or conveniences can actually create more work for us.

They look great in the ads and in the showrooms but come up a little shorter in our homes. Some cause us more work, create clutter and can even present safety issues. None of that was supposed to happen.

Just think of all of the electronic gizmos that we have now - and even depend on. Our cell phones wake us up - some still rely on an alarm clock , but our phones are always with us except when we misplace them or the battery runs down. Speaking of battery life, how can we depend so much on a device as our cell phone and use it for so many apps - and it even makes calls, too - and have it be low on battery at so many crucial or inopportune times? One charging cable is no longer sufficient because we may need a quick charge somewhere else in the house, or the car, or even on the go with a portable charger.

We go to get into our cars, and we now have to unlock them with the electronic fob. Misplace that, and we may be delayed in getting into our vehicle. It's not always as simple as having an extra key - people always had an extra key or two to the front door of the house and the car that they had made at the hardware store or home improvement center. Now many car keys can only be made at the dealership.


There are many controls and switches that operate by pressing them or pushing buttons. Some are very sensitive and can easily be turned on, started, or operated with very little pressure. In fact, we often make mistakes because they are so sensitive. Others require much more effort or pressure to operate. So, how about people that don't have the dexterity or finger or hand strength to be able to use all of the electronic switches and controls? Convenience doesn't matter much if it means that someone can't open or activate something that electronics is supposed to make easier.

Changing TV channels or adjusting the volume can be a challenge - particularly with satellite systems that offer hundreds of channels and remote controls with dozens of buttons - some of which require a precise touch rather than just getting close. This is much different from the hands on approach  of actually touching the TV to turn it on, select a channel, and adjust the sound. Some of the newer TVs don't even have controls on them - it's all done through the remote.

And for all of the challenges and difficulties we might experience with such modern conveniences, think of some of our aging-in-place clients and how they are coping with the same issues. We need to be sensitive to their needs.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.