Get Connected!

If you know grandparents, parents or adults who are struggling with technology or they need to get out and meet new people, here are some great places you in Sydney that you can take them to:

  1. Adult Learning Australia- Community Education and Training Providers

Adult learning Australia has compiled a great list of centres around Australia. Not only can your loved ones learn Internet skills, but they can also learn useful employment skills to get back into work. If that doesn’t float their boat, there are community, engagement, wellbeing and general education courses. Click here for a comprehensive list!

2. Local Community Centres 

If you’re looking for something a little more low key or something that’s more local, it is worth checking out the activities that your local council organises. For example, my local council is the City of Ryde. This is what they offer:

  • Free English conversational classes
  • Computer lessons
  • Cultural events
  • Craft groups
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Community information workshops
  • Tai-Chi classes + exercise programs for seniors and retirees + walking groups
  • Knitting groups
  • Reading groups

There are so many opportunities to get started on something new! As American author Thomas Bailey Aldrich once said, “To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent – that is to triumph over old age.”

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5 Famous Quotes about Ageing

Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.

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– Francis Bacon (16-17th Century philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist and author)

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.

Henry Ford

– Henry Ford (19-20th Century American Industrialist, founder of Ford Motor Company, sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production)

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.

– Mark Twain (American author of the well-known novels Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer)

Surrounding myself with beautiful women keeps me young.

– Hugh Hefner (89 year old American Playboy, adult magazine publisher and businessman)

Age is not important unless you’re a cheese.

– Helen Hayes (20th Century American actress)

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Does culture affect how we treat the elderly?

If an older person feels lonely or isolated, is it because of the way they’ve been treated by their family or friends? Is our treatment of older people somehow connected to our culture, or the values and beliefs we’ve been brought up with?

“Ageism” refers to discrimination towards  the elderly, in the same way someone can be racist or sexist. It is a term coined in the late 20th Century. In contrast, “filial piety” refers to respect for elders and ancestors in Chinese culture.

Different cultures have different values attached to the older generation. Now I’m sorry if I begin to generalise here.

In Western culture, it is not uncommon for adult children to place their elderly parents in residential care or nursing homes. 12.7% of USA’s population is over 65, and 5.5% of that number are in residential care or nursing homes. In contrast, 13.5% of Japan’s population is over 65, and only 2% were in residential care or nursing homes. Note that these statistics are over 10 years old, so chances are the actual numbers are much higher.

Perhaps it is the culture of our environment that influences our perception of the elderly. Pop-culture rarely depicts any signs of age. The cosmetic industry thrives on the fear of ageing and wrinkles. According to this article, youth is fetishised and ageing is seen as shameful in Western Culture. How society sees elderly people strongly influences how elderly people see themselves, which affects their self-esteem, motivations and behaviour.

Is it possible that we suffer from “death anxiety” where we are afraid to closely associate with any indication of age, for fear of forming attachment only to have our hearts cruelly ripped out when someone dies? While grief hurts, it is better that a person has lived a loved life than a lonely life.

In other cultures, filial piety is often expected. In traditional Chinese culture, elderly parents expect their adult children to look after them. To do otherwise is considered dishonourable. For example, when I’ve moved out, in full time employment and start my own family, I’ll be expected to give back to my parents financially and take them out each week, as a sign of appreciation for them looking after me. Some of my Aussie friends have been incredulous of this, whereas in Asian culture, it’s kind of expected. At mealtimes, the eldest or most respected person is presented with the finest food first and is seated at the head of the table. At weddings, the bride and groom kneel in front of both sets of parents and serve them tea in the presence of extended family, as a sign of respect. The burning of incense and worship of deceased elders is also common. However, with China’s one child policy, looking after elderly parents can be quite difficult, so the number of aged care residences and elderly people living independently is increasing.

In Greek culture, old age is honoured and celebrated. Indigenous elders are leaders of their community, seen as wise and their knowledge is passed down to younger generations. Major decisions are rarely made without them. Korean 60th (hwan-gap) and 70th birthdays (kohCui) are positively celebrated as a rite of passage into old age. Elders are the head of the family in India and their advice is constantly sought. In African-American culture, death is an opportunity to celebrate life. In Mediterranean and Latin culture, it’s common for multiple generations to live under one roof.

However, all around the world families are becoming more fragmented as people seek employment in cities away from their elderly parents, start new families, or get caught up in the allure of modern city-living.

Although times have changed, Internet communication technology is a change for the better. So if you live away from your parents or grandparents, remember they are only one Skype call or Whatsapp message away 🙂

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Top Games for Older People

When I reach retirement age, I can’t wait to sit on a comfy couch with my iPad or tablet and play games all day long.

Ok, that sounds pretty antisocial, but if you can connect with friends online, it’s okay, right?

  1. Words With Friends
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    It’s basically Scrabble 2.0. It ranks as one of the top 10 apps for people aged 55+. If you haven’t played it before, you should definitely have a go at it! You can challenge your friends and it includes messaging functions. It may become a bit cumbersome if you don’t like words (or ads), or if that one person keeps beating you. You may get pissed off and suspect they’re cheating. But it’s all part of the fun!
  2. Trivia Crack 

Think you know all about geography, history, science, entertainment, art and sport? Think again. This game is based on Trivia Pursuit and it is bloody hard! And that same friend will probably keep beating you, causing you to quit (they’re probably cheating!). And word of advice: don’t let those cutesy characters put you off your A-game.

3. Mahjong

Source: http://www.hautemd.com/thanks-to-tea-work-and-mah-jong-hong-kong-can-be-a-fountain-of-youth/

Dating back to the early 1900s, this four-player tile game is the craze in Asian countries. It’s very popular among older people. The aim of the game is to form a  13-tile combination the quickest. Mahjong is known for its ability to delay the onset of dementia and improve memory because of the nature of the game. My aunt in Hong Kong plays 3 times a week in addition to playing the online version. The real version is much better though. If you don’t know how to play, click here. Also my mum told me a story (not sure whether it’s actually true) about an old man who had dementia and kept on escaping from his Western retirement home. His family decided to put him into an Asian retirement home. He stopped escaping because he sat and watched other people play Mahjong. (Ok, now I’m really doubting this story…maybe my parents are hinting).

4. Bejewelled

This is a pretty simple game but it’s really addictive! You swipe tiles to get enough points to make it to the next level. As you progress to the more advanced levels, you can run out of combinations, which means you have to start over. A lot of older people like playing this game. Perhaps swiping colourful things is therapeutic.

5. Solitaire

I don’t actually know how to play solitaire properly (I just mess around with it when I’m really bored and I prefer minesweeper anyway), but it ranks pretty highly among those aged 55+. So if that floats your boat, keep on owning it!

What are your recommended games? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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How my Dad uses Tech

So this comes as a sequel after the post about how my mum uses tech. I’m not sure whether this is true for most dads, but my dad is always in his study, in front of his laptop with his two 27-inch monitors angled at exactly 15 degrees. Okay that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but he loves his gadgets, and he basically lives and breathes in IT.

1. IT-related stuff

I’m not entirely sure what my dad does (when people ask, I just say “oh, he works in IT” and hope that’s the end of it) but he is constantly on his computer typing some sort of code on his two giant monitor screens. It’s good he works in this field, because it means I get all his leftover tech when he buys new things. I have received decent-sized monitors, one or two mouses (mice?), a keyboard, and even an iPod touch when Apps were all the craze and he thought he could get rich quick if he made an App, but apparently you need Apple software for that. But hey, free iPod touch!

2. Whatsapp

Although my dad doesn’t spend a lot of time on his phone like the rest of the family, he still has a Whatsapp presence. I’m not sure whether this is true for dads (or males in general :P), but he is the biggest fan of one-word replies. His last messages were “ok”, “no”, “done”, “yes”, and occasionally 3-5 words strung together to get his point across in the most direct way possible, such as “dinner together?” and “pls call booking”. Sometimes he throws in the occasional dog photo if Oreo is sleeping in an absurd position, when I’m away and I request it, or when he’s really bored.

While I don’t think my dad uses technology the same way my mum does, Whatsapp is a useful medium for him to communicate with the family and to know what’s going on. He enjoys buying new pieces of tech with good specs and if we’re at a shopping centre, he always heads to the TV or laptop section at JBHiFi.

So that’s how my dad uses tech, how does yours?

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3 Candid Ways My Mum Uses Technology

So my mum isn’t exactly the most tech-savvy person in the world, but she’s forgiven and somewhat justified, because we have two software programmers in the family. Nevertheless, if she has mastered the art of using common technology, you can too, no matter where you’re at.

  1. WhatsappLike most families with young adult children, we have a Whatsapp group. This is a medium for my mum to catch up with the rest of us during the day (probably to keep tabs on us) and to update us with tidbits of information here and there. Her most common message is probably “will u come home for dinner?”, mixed in with the occasional candid dog photo and then the completely random message “she looked at Dad’ s face.yum.” But it keeps me on the edge- I never know what’s coming next.
  2. YoutubeRecently my mum has been obsessed with watching the Chinese version of The Voice. If it isn’t The Voice, then it’s probably a chef’s tutorial on how to cook an Asian dish. This is her favourite pastime after dinner, sprawled out on the beanbag, with the dog equally as sprawled next to her.
  3. Taking photos of food and other thingsMy parents recently went on a holiday overseas, and while I was studying for exams, my phone was incessantly beeping because of all the food pictures and historical landmarks that they visited. The most embarrassing mum-moment was probably when she was in Korea and took a close-up photo of a pair of Korean twins in traditional dress, with their mother next to them. She must have walked straight up to them, exclaimed in delight and proceeded to take a close-up photo in typical overseas tourist style. But hey, now I know what Korean twins in traditional dress look like.These technologies have brought my mum joy in so many ways. She can keep connected with us during the day when we have uni or work, it gives her entertainment value when she’s relaxing at home and she can cherish the memories which have been captured at a single point in time. So the possibilities with technology are endless. Even a few simple things can bring someone a lot of happiness. What can you do to bring someone joy?

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Debunking myths about the Internet

The Internet is a mysterious thing, something that’s intangible, with nooks and crannies everywhere, but you know it’s full of power. It can be kind of like a misty vapour that floats about.

There are certain myths attached to the Internet. Let’s explore these a little further.

  1. The Internet is dangerous 

    Sure, we’ve all heard horror stories about child sex predators grooming young girls, cyberbullying and trolls, but let’s not give those wrongdoers the pleasure of tarnishing the Internet for the rest of us. For every one predator/cyberbully/troll, there are probably at least 10,000 people using the Internet in a way that isn’t hurtful to others (I hope).There have been many a time where I have used the Internet for assignments. There are so many current and historical resources in so many different formats with different perspectives, that it’s an online gold field. (I’m thanking you especially, Google and unistudyguides!) Thinking back to when I was in primary school and I borrowed books to learn about new things (e.g. the environment), what I learnt now seems so one-dimensional and outdated. The Internet has definitely revolutionised how we learn.

  2. The Internet tracks our every move and we have no privacy.We can erase our browsing history, we can block location requests, we can use websites that don’t track our data. We just need to make sure we don’t give our personal details away easily and we should be careful of what we read or say on the Internet.
  3. The Internet is confusing and hard to use.Thanks to Google, you can type exactly what you’re looking for in the search box! Let the search algorithms do all the work while you sit back and relax. If you’re unsure about how to fix something, or what foods you can’t give your dog, let me google that for you.

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5 Common Stereotypes of Older People

Most of us are guilty of assigning certain types of people with labels. For example, people who wear glasses are smart, blondes not so much, Asians are cheap but good at maths (perhaps there’s a correlation here), and old people are senile.

Now I’m sure we all know people who are bespectacled, blonde, Asian or “old”, but do not in any way fit into the stereotypes mentioned above.

Stereotypes are harmful because it brings pre-existing perceptions of someone based on their appearance or culture before you meet them. They frame your interactions with them in a way that is biased and ignorant. In fact, stereotyping is a form of bullying.

Here are five common stereotypes of older people that we need to address:

1. Old people are senile.

The word “senile” means having or showing a disease or condition caused by advanced age. However, it has become synonymous with dementia and Alzheimer’s. These diseases are not a natural occurrence of ageing- less than 10% of the population over 65 develop dementia. While we may experience forgetfulness or loss of cognitive function as we age, every person is different with varying levels of senility. The important thing is that it doesn’t affect every single person over 65. I’m certain many of us know an older person who is as sharp as the bristles on a hedgehog (for lack of a better simile).

2. Old people can’t learn new things. 

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This is outright wrong. Old people can and do learn. Rather, they learn in different ways and at different rates. Older people prefer to learn new skills acquired via personalised engagement strategies as opposed to rote learning at institutions (Adult Learning Australia 2013). Sometimes, the barrier to an older person learning in a public place (e.g. at university) is because of societal perceptions that “an old dog can’t learn new tricks”, which can cause demotivation, self-consciousness and refusal to learn new things. In fact, participation in learning reduces social isolation and increases mental wellbeing.

And older people are constantly learning new things. Retirement and transitioning into a later stage of life requires flexibility, versatility and quick adaptability of new experiences, while tackling the fear of the unknown. E.g. moving out of the family home, making Wills and ensuring affairs are in order, looking after grandchildren, etc.

3. All old people are the same.

That’s like saying every single person is the same. Sure, older people may share similar experiences, but so do high school students. So do women. So do men. So do people. So what? Everyone is unique.

4. We can’t learn anything from old people.

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Older people offer fresh perspectives. They’ve been through a lot of life experiences that you and I have yet to conquer. They survived high school and most of their work life without the Internet. In saying that, I daresay they are more in touch with reality than their younger counterparts.

And it’s a mutually beneficial process. Both younger and older people can benefit from each other through communication. Older people will feel less lonely and isolated while younger people will benefit from an older person’s wealth of experience.

5. Old people are lonely.

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Ok, this is  true to an extent. But not all old people are lonely. They’re just more at risk of loneliness and isolation if they live by themselves. A lot of older people are not abandoned by families (in Chinese culture younger people are expected to respect and look after their elderly parents), engage in recreational activities and have a lot of social interactions with each other.

Yesterday, I was at the UNSW Gym enjoying a bacon and egg roll when a womens’ aqua-aerobics class started. 14 out of the 15 women were at least 60 years old, and they looked like they were having the time of their life, chatting, splashing water at each other or very intently following the instructor’s every move.

So, breaking stereotype number 6: old people have lots of fun!

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A Personal Insight about Mental Health

I want to share something that’s happened to me this week.

The sad irony is that it is Mental Health Week, but it opens up the opportunity to talk about mental health issues. My hope and prayer is that every week, at any time, we can deeply and honestly share with each other if we’re coping.

So here we go.

Yesterday I received a call from one of my friends who told me our friend died. He wasn’t old. He wasn’t killed by accident or by the wrongdoing of another. He took his own life.

When she told me, I felt numb. He seemed so successful, like he had it all together. He was so friendly and had a beautiful grin. He always looked genuinely happy to see you and made you feel valued and welcome, even if you’ve only previously chatted to him briefly about superficial things like work life and weekend shenanigans.

But that’s the thing.

We can’t just assume everything is okay from asking vague, generic questions like ‘how are you’, because it begs for a generic ‘not too bad/I’m well/good thanks’ response. We need to scratch beneath the surface, where it is bloody, messy and raw.

And that’s my biggest regret. I wish I had done more, somehow. I wish I cared more. I wish I had bothered to ask questions that matter, instead of smiling briefly and asking socially acceptable questions. I wish I had dug deeper into the relationship, by asking questions that pierce to the core. I wish I knew.

As an outsider looking in, it’s hard to believe that someone can go all the way to the point of total despair of no hope, of no turning back. But have you ever, just for a brief moment, considered stepping off the platform just before the train comes? It only takes a fleeting thought, a split decision, possibly paired with unfavourable life circumstances. We don’t really know whether someone is coping. But it doesn’t hurt to ask those hard questions.

It’s also a two-way process.

We need to be vulnerable with each other. We need to openly and honestly share our struggles with each other. The world is ruthless and the relentless routine of ‘life goes on’, no matter how you feel, no matter what has happened, is brutal.

So we need to swallow our pride. We need to find a trusted friend or family member and just divulge, cry, yell at the world, sit in silence, or do whatever helps you focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

As for others, we need to avoid putting our best foot forward on Facebook. Do you know how it feels when everyone around you seems to be conquering life when you just want to end yours? I don’t. But we must be discerning about whether our carefully crafted social media image tramples on other’s self esteem and confidence.

So I’d like to challenge you to do something today. Can you scratch beneath the surface? Can you keep a secret? Can you be intentional with your questions? Can you be vulnerable, honest and open when someone asks you if you’re doing okay?

It’s definitely a challenge. But it’s a hope. It’s a life.

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Technology for Seniors

We all know that technology gets the better of us at times. So imagine how much harder it will be to use digital devices when you’ve been surviving without computers for thirty odd years!

Thankfully, some companies have recognised this issue. There are now innovative technologies that empower the older generation to navigate technology with ease. Here are some examples of excellent technologies:

1. grandPad

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While similar to an iPad in name and function, the grandPad is a tablet that allows older people to view family photos and videos, play games, check the weather, listen to music, send voice mails, make phone calls and video chat. The grandPad is touch screen and choosing what function to use is simple and intuitive.

2. Lively Safety Watch

Lively Safety Watch

What it lacks in an un-bizarre name, it makes up for in sensible functions. The Lively Safety Watch is comparative to a fitbit or iWatch because it is interactive yet tailored to older people living at home. Its main feature is the large orange button on the side of the watch which, when pressed, alerts a member from the Lively Care Team, who then calls emergency contacts or emergency services if needed. The Safety Watch also reminds the user to take their medication, counts footsteps taken and can even be worn in the shower! The Watch comes with Lively activity sensors which are attached to movable objects around the home (such as the fridge door, pill boxes, the front door, etc), so that the user’s movements are routinely monitored and any abnormality will be detected. Chosen family and caregivers can observe the user’s movements via an activated online account, enabling peace of mind.

3. SingFit

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SingFit is a karaoke, movement and trivia program for seniors which stimulates the mind and body. The benefits of SingFit include elevated mood, decreased agitation and lessened signs of dementia. SingFit’s unique lyric coach system helps people with dementia or vision impairment to participate in the program by speaking the words in plain English right before the words are sung.

These are just a few of the innovative technologies that help older people maintain social connections with family, friends and the community. If you want to read more, here are some more creative technologies.

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