I don't have to remind you, but I do think it’s ok to occasionally reinforce the notion that we live in extraordinary times. Although, people during every era may have felt the same. When the very first Ford automobile rolled off the assembly line and drove down main street heads surely turned, while horses and buggies got sidelined so that the future could speed by (at maybe 15 miles per hour).
Today we have algorithms that pre-calculate your next Facebook page or what should appear in your Google search results, taking into account perhaps 50 or 150 variables that have accumulated during your recent online activity. We increasingly interface with machines, instead of people, and those machines are getting smarter with each click and search.
Katie Engelhart, writing for the New Yorker, has done a great job of taking the reader on a journey to senior living centers and the robot “pets” that have been adopted by willing participants during pilot projects (initially) — where the question of how seniors can keep from being isolated is being addressed.
Older people are more likely to live alone in the United States than in most other places in the world. Nearly thirty per cent of Americans over sixty-five live by themselves, most of them women.
Here’s an example of a robot cat from a company called Joy for All interacting with a 103 year old woman (Engelhart references these cats in her reporting):
It will most likely come as no surprise that, according to Engelhart:
Older people are more susceptible to loneliness; forty-three per cent of Americans over sixty identify as lonely. Their individual suffering is often described by medical researchers as especially perilous, and their collective suffering is seen as an especially awful societal failing.
Perilous is not a word to be taken lightly:
Research from the A.A.R.P. and Stanford University has found that social isolation adds nearly seven billion dollars a year to the total cost of Medicare, in part because isolated people show up to the hospital sicker and stay longer.
This is not a laughing matter, but I couldn't resist this meme I came across.
Part of my motivation to write about retiring in Bali has to do with trying to find enough like-minded people who want to both avoid social isolation and manage their finances easier by living in a more affordable setting. I am still attempting to create a “smart aging” community (and I may have good news soon).
As I read about ageism in the workplace and the debilitating issues surrounding elderly people retiring on their own, I’m more convinced than ever that solutions will be popping up to address these problems.
But are robotic pets the answer?
Seems like a pathetic, disingenuous bandaid to me.