Yesterday our IT-Senior group in Åsele had the opportunity to try out a basic VR implementation, during one of our regular bi-weekly meetings at Åsele Library. Although they found it interesting, they were not overly impressed! They did think it might be interesting to visit a famous place in VR, and have a virtual look around. They were also in favour of using augmented reality (AR) to enhance the experience of going to a museum or art gallery.
Throughout the developed world more people live longer, whereas childbirth rates are relatively static or even falling. The result is that as time passes, there are more and more old people in society. Today’s young people, and in turn their children, will grow old in a society of increasingly old people. They will be part of a future in which most can expect to live past 100 years, and some will live much longer. That is our collective future, and it is also our personal future. Unless we are unlucky, we will all live a long time by historical standards, and for much of that time we will be old.
But what quality of life do old people have, and can improve it with ICT? The Q-Life research group has been looking into these questions for several years, largely supported by research funding from the European Union, and the work continues. Currently we are busy with the Senior-IT group in Åsele, as part of the PLACE-EE project. Our Swedish elderly users are trying out ideas and will be testing components and prototypes as the work progresses.
There is a mistaken idea that new ICT is for the young, and that old people are not interested. With our users we have found that this is simply not true. They are very interested, and ICT can improve their lives and wellbeing, if only it is introduced and applied in the right way. Our users have become ambassadors for innovative technology and how it can be part of a better life for the elderly – for the future of all of us who will get older – in other words, for everyone!
The Åsele Senior IT meets every second week. It provides a forum and opportunity for local senior residents to meet and explore new technologies. Q-Life has coordinated these meetings since early 2014. We get support from Åsele Municipality and have a meeting room in Kulturhuset/the library.
At today’s meeting we worked with Messenger. There were many laughs when we experienced several problems that we solved.
We also have “fika” which is coffee (that is provided by the library) and something nice with it.
Q-Life is dedicated to improving quality of life in relation to the use of information and communication technologies. Quality of life is not so easy to define – although most of us think it is important and probably have a feeling for what it means for us. It can be related to (some versions of) the ancient Greek ideal of eudaemonia, or “human flourishing”.
Q-Life’s view focuses on the experience of living, rather than more objective aspects such as income or education. Here we list some factors that we see as important for a good quality of life:
Health – According to the WHO: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” A good quality of life implies maximising health in this sense, but including in the presence of disease and infirmity.
Happiness – There is a lot of current interest in positive psychology, which is more or less the scientific study and promotion of the feeling of happiness, and positive emotions are known to have beneficial effects on health. The broader sense of happiness – a state of subjective wellbeing – could be regarded as synonymous with a good quality of life. This is not merely the more narrowly defined emotion of feeling happy, but a “good life”.
Social engagement – We should be engaged with others in the way and to the degree that suits our personality, usually in a variety of ways and types of situation. This is sometimes described as a feeling of social belonging, or of not being isolated from others.
Self-fulfilment – We should live in a way that allows us to do things we find fulfilling and enjoyable, that is, to achieve personal goals and realize aspirations.
Self-transcendence – This refers to some aspect of being alive that involves an experience of something beyond our individual existence. Perhaps a “spiritual” feeling we get from being in nature, or from meditation, or a system of religious beliefs, or something we get listening to music.
Self-sustaining – A good quality of life supports continued living with a good quality of life. This is closely related to the concept of “successful ageing” – and we are all ageing.
 Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.