Remember dial-up? Thirty seconds or so of donkey braying before you got online, then waiting for seemingly hours for a site to download. And the phone line engaged.
For much of rural New Zealand this remains a reality: new initiatives for rolling out rural broadband announced recently are going to be some time away.
Website design these days is predicated on broadband. Pages are chock-full of graphics, pictures, Flash animation, video clips and other gadgets that broadband users take for granted.
I was forcibly reminded of this recently when a website intended for rural users didn't seem to be getting the traffic it should. I tried opening it on a friend's dialup connection. The home page took one minute, 21 seconds to download. And that was on a reasonably fast dialup connection. If I was the intended audience I think I would have given up and not bothered to wait.
For some rural users the connection is incredibly slow - even for dialup - and interference from electric fences, being miles up a country road on ancient copper wiring, makes internet use a hit-or-miss experience.
Internet banking is prone to timing out and the dialup connection can drop without warning. It's such fun endlessly re-dialing when you're in a hurry. And it's difficult to run a farming business without the internet these days.
Trying new sites on a dialup connection used to be part of basic new website testing. Web developers need to bear this in mind when designing sites intended for use by rural people. Or, do as Google has with Gmail, and provide a basic html option that loads quickly.
Through a combination of speech, gesture, and touch recognition caregiver robots will aid elderly people in a variety of ways.
Rest home caregivers struggle to provide meaningful interaction with elderly in their care now as underfunding of the sector means that resthome staff are very stretched.
Although a robot may remove the risk of human error when administering
medicines, for example, they will also lack the personal connection
that we, as humans, need. And attempts to make the robots too
human-like may backfire because of a phenomenon known as the “uncanny
valley:” when a robot or animated character is too lifelike people will
react with revulsion. Psychologically, we cannot handle machines that
are too perfect and lifelike.
I hope no-one suggests bringing this to New Zealand.
Those of us who are a little past the first flush of youth often worry whether we're on the slippery slope to Alzheimers when we
* Walk into the kitchen and forget what we went in for
* Misplace our keys
* Forget the names of people
* Don't remember a specific place or brand name("Tip of the tongue" experience)
Rest assured, these experiences are normal and don't indicate a Alzheimers/dementia problem.
However, there is a cause for concern when memory loss starts to affect the daily life of a person.
Common signs of dementia:
* Recent memory loss that affects job skills * Difficulty performing familiar tasks * Problems with language * Time and place disorientation * Problems keeping track of things * Repeatedly misplacing things and putting them in inappropriate places * Changes in mood * Personality changes
There's a strong focus these days on brain and physical fitness and social interaction as a way of reducing the likelihood of Alzheimers. Keeping your brain fit can be as simple as doing a crossword each day.
Alzheimers New Zealand has a wealth of interesting material and resources on Alzheimers and other dementias, assistance available, etc, and is essential reading for anyone caring for a family member diagnosed with Alzheimers.
The Alzheimers Reading Room, was begun to describe the Alzheimers journey of an elderly woman - his mother - and his journey as her caregiver, interspersed with posts on new research, treatment and other really useful information. To quote Bob deMarco -
"The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one source of life news and health information for the entire Alzheimers and Dementia community. The goal of the Alzheimer's Reading Room is to Educate and Empower Alzheimer's caregivers their families, and the entire Alzheimer's community."