Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are Seniors Ready to be Plugged In?

You've probably noticed that many people are "plugged in" to their IPods, cellular phones, or other communication and entertainment devices. You've probaly also noticed that these people are generally younger; seniors seem more likely to have hearing aids in their ears than ear bud speakers.

Now a company called LinkedSenior has come along to get us all connected. I've never seen the devices, but apparently the idea is to provide Linked Senior Players to residents of senior residences, where they can then connect to a central kiosk to download music, audio books, talk shows, cooking lessons, and/or anything else we might want to listen to. Here is the basic product information:

"The player: The Linked Senior Player is simple and straightforward to operate; it has five large tactile pushbuttons and provides excellent sound quality.

"The station:
The Linked Senior Kiosk is designed with ease-of-use for older adults in mind. Its operating system and its peripheral equipment have been carefully tailored to meet the needs of older adults.

"The content: The current selection contains about 63,000 audio pieces and is continuously updated with audio books, talk shows, radio shows, music, audio emails, news, cooking lessons, games and more. "

The mission of Linked Senior is as follows:

"Linked Senior was founded with the goal of creating a world in which the life in senior communities is enhanced through better access to entertainment. This new service revolutionizes how the 60+ spend their time and helps facilities provide quality activities to their residents. By opening up their everyday settings to the world and fostering social communities, Linked Senior provides seniors a mean to stay active and connected."

I'm sure that the developers of these devices are serious about offering entertainment for seniors (as well as serious about making money), but I have my doubts about the success of this project. Perhaps the idea of special services for seniors still distresses me a bit, a carry-over from the time I refused to consider myself old. I'm sure the developers are younger people. Are they right in seeing a need for such a service?

I have my doubts. Speaking only for myself, I can say that I have no desire to shut out the world to listen to "canned" music or whatever, at least as long as I can listen to recordings and read real books. I'm reminded of those science fiction ear radio devices designed to keep the population from thinking. See Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. We already have high definition TV, AM/FM radio, CD and DVD players, and 24-hour programming everywhere, not to mention films in theaters and on rentable DVD's.

I may be old-fashioned, but I can keep very busy reading, writing, thinking, and even watching TV. Perhaps the Baby Boomer generation has grown up in a world of personal electronic devices and will be ready to embrace the Linked Senior system when their time comes, but for those of us who grew up in a different era, I don't see the value of such a system. (And won't those Boomers have their own computers and listening devices to bring with them into retirement?)

What do you think?

For more information, go to http://www.linkedsenior.com/.
For a press release, go to http://www.prlog.org/10277516-entertainment-for-senior-communities-retirement-communities.html

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Censorship Rears its Ugly Head

I nearly resigned from my unpaid job as editor of the resident newsletter at The Clare. Why? That old bugaboo, censorship. I finallly decided that it was just the nature of the place I live, or Catholic tradition, or narrow-mindedness, so after I cooled down, I changed my mind. I guess my initial reaction was dictated not by the minor incident itself, but by the fact that the changes (which I didn't make myself) destroyed the spacing of the whole newsletter, leaving some confusing juxtapositions in a few articles.

So what happened? A resident submitted a little short-short story involving a seedy character who used two "bad" words. I don't use or recommend profanity, but I've always thought that it sometimes deserves a place in fiction, within moderation. Seedy characters don't talk like college professors. As a matter of fact, Illinois' former governor illustrated on wiretaps that even public officials--and their wives--sometimes use filthy language, far worse that what was involved here. I've always been against censorship in fiction, ever since I read about the Huckleberry Finn case. I couldn't believe that a book I consider one of the best was taken from library shelves.

Anyway, the present case involved only two words, used one time each. One was indeed offensive, although I think it has lost its original meaning to become just a very negative insult. The other word was so common that I never suspected it would offend anyone. It was just a common word for excrement. Would a killer call anyone a "piece of excrement"? I doubt that he would.

I argued a bit with the building staff (responsible for printing the newsletter), but to no avail. It wasn't a great story anyway, but I believe in residents' right to free speech. What are those in charge trying to protect us from, anyway? I'd never print a profanity-filled story, but two words used in an appropriate fictional context? Come on! Lighten up! We may be old, but we're still able to think for ourselves.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

4th of July Nostalgia:

I first wrote this in 2007, and I repeated it last year. However, since it is my definitive memory of the holiday, it seems worth repeating again.

Parade Memories and July 4th at Grandma's

My paternal grandmother lived in town, and that was exciting to me as a child. I grew up on a farm with visions of big-city skylines in my head; Whitewater, Wisconsin, did not qualify, but I considered it a step in the right direction.The excitement there was the 4th of July parade.

As I remember, it began on Main Street and turned down North Franklin street to the city park. Grandma lived on North Franklin Street. I remember the joy of swinging back and forth on Grandma's front porch glider and admiring the passing bands and floats and marchers, feeling patriotic, and always munching on some snacks that my plump body surely didn't need.

As I look back, I realize that it wasn't much of a parade by today's standards. The "floats" began as farm wagons, trucks, cars, and even children's wagons, and the bands sometimes played out of tune. Still, the parade spirit was there. I loved the flags and the excitement.

As I recall, I've participated in only three or four parades during my lifetime. In those days on Grandma's porch, I dreamed of parading as an honored celebrity or Grand Marshal, but of course it never happened. In Whitewater, I wore an ill-fitting purple band uniform, played my clarinet, and marched with our fledgling high school marching band once or twice. Ours was the smaller of the town's two high schools, and as I remember, the larger one had a bigger, better band. I once rode on a farm wagon-based float that proclaimed "Education Reflects the Spirit of Liberty" on the side and featured an old-fashioned mirrored "crystal ball," dance hall style, in the center.

At Luther College, I remember riding on a homecoming parade float in a fancy new yellow gown. It rained that day, and what I remember best is that the dress was ruined by run-off from the blue crepe paper decorating the float. My parents were in the crowd to observe this spectacle. I can't remember either the theme of the float or the sponsoring organization, but it may have been either the drama group or the literary society.

Today, I enjoy parades vicariously on TV. I admire the flowers and the beauty of the Rose Bowl Parade floats, the hype and variety of the New York Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and the marching politicians, commercialism, and enthusiasm of Chicago's many big parades. Still, no parade quite provides the excitement of being "downtown" on Grandma's small-town front porch, swinging back and forth and eating. That experience was a generator of big dreams.