A recent newspaper article really gave me pause. It described technology solutions for keeping track of aging parents but also revealed both ageist expectations and what my friend Teresa calls “Helicopter Childrening”. Family members described this technology as both comforting in the short term and as a tool to know when it’s time to step in and take over: notice NOT IF – when. A parent “under surveillance” also described how her daughter lectured her on staying up too late at night.
I applaud adaptive strategies that help people live where they choose to for their full lifespan, and technology monitoring daily activity against a pre-determined “norm” for an individual can be a helpful tool. But strategies to support safety and security must be balanced with a commitment to also support the building blocks of resilience like self-efficacy, self-esteem, mastery and control, optimism, and hope.
Consider some low-tech solutions too! Instead of watching and waiting “until”, employ the research proving functional loss can be prevented and in many cases reversed and create a family plan to maximize functional ability. Adult children who feel compelled to comment on a parents choices during the day (staying up late, sleeping late, etc.) need only to consider how much they would personally appreciate that type of interference in daily life.
Take a cue from the disability movement and prioritize an individuals feelings of self-efficacy, autonomy, and mastery and control over their own life – regardless of challenges. Employ the concept of the “dignity of risk” to avoid creating a culture dominated by illness management. Some risk is preferable to hovering, second guessing decisions, and trying to parent your parents. Take age out of the equation and use technology in a way that helps create a care partnership and culture of “whole person” well-being.