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By Sam A. Moak

Technology and our “Seasoned” Loved Ones

 The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law.  Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

There is a common complaint among Baby Boomers when it comes to aging parents and grandparents: It’s hard to keep in touch with them. Most communication among the middle and younger generations now takes place on the computer—e-mail, Facebook, electronic photo-sharing and more. Very rarely do we pick up the phone for a good old-fashioned chat; and, when we do, it’s usually on the go, in the form of a quick call or text message from our cell phones. Unfortunately, where all this technology helps us to be more connected to friends and family who also use these technologies, it may end up leaving our “seasoned” loved ones out of the conversation.

We do not have to leave our non-technological loved ones out.  The key to getting these relatives involved in high-tech communication is to look at it from their point of view. For technology to become attractive to grandma and grandpa, we have to get into their heads and understand what would make them think this is fun.  The bells and whistles that might attract us are  often too counterintuitive for them.

The younger, tech-savvy generations tend to look for high-tech devices that do everything, but that’s not necessarily what’s going to be appealing to grandma or grandpa. Perhaps a single purpose gadget, designed solely for email or sharing photos, would be more appealing to them.

New high-tech devices may be harder for parents or grandparents to use and honestly they can be for me too.  However, being able to connect with their loved ones can be a huge motivating factor. Being able to communicate with family makes our elderly parents and grandparents happy, but it also helps keep them safe.  Adult children who communicate with their parents on a regular basis are better able to recognize and respond when mom or dad suddenly have trouble caring for themselves.

Many of you may not be fortunate enough to live close to your parents or grandparents and technology can provide a way to keep tabs on them.  Technologies exist that allow for the movements of our loved ones to be monitored by sensors and relayed by computer if help is necessary.  Studies conducted by the AARP Foundation and the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging both show a willingness of seniors to use these technological types of equipment if it allows them to stay in their home.  I guess instead of Big Brother Watching it is Son or Daughter.

While these monitoring systems in varying configurations have been used in long-term care and assisted-living communities, their move into private residences is more recent. Some home health agencies are offering them as part of their service.

These new systems go way beyond the simple push-button “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” alerts to monitor movements, change in behaviors, and even health status such as blood pressure and weight. Systems vary in cost, monthly fees, and technical assistance. Some you rent, others you buy outright. If you are in an apartment or considering a move in the near future, portability may be an issue to consider as well.

 Daily interaction with others, particularly family, and a non-intrusive daily check on your loved one’s well being can greatly increase their quality of life.  So, technology can be a great benefit to you and your loved ones, if embraced properly.

Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C.  He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.