The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide

This digital world is divided into two parts. The first part is exemplified by a fourteen-year-old grandchild who can use her thumbs and mouse to navigate digital and online information and services in the blink of an eye. Maybe when she is 80 years old her thumbs will be crippled from constant clicking, but for now, she is a guru of the digital world.

The other part of the digital world is grandma, 80 years old, good thumbs, but little clue on how to use or operate modern communication or equipment. This could almost be comical, except that it has real life consequences. A wonderful client in her 90s needed to replace her washer and dryer. The new ones were installed and then the trouble began. The washer was a top loader, and she could not reach over the top to retrieve the clean laundry from the bottom. A step stool can solve it, but that is not always a safe solution for someone whose balance is not as good as it was 80 years ago. A worse problem was the controls. She has the strength to turn dials and knobs, but the profusion and confusion of digital displays and pluses and minuses instead of hot, cold, whites or colors was very confusing. And the displays are not easily apparent as they depend on what touch screen is touched. To make matters more confusing, she could not hear thebeeps that signaled end of cycle or whatever. This can lead to significant aggravation and frustration.

A potentially dangerous situation can arise with the electronics built into the operation of newer cars. Grandma may have her 18-year-old car with only 27,000 miles on it and she loves that car. Not to mention that she is proud how she has gotten her moneys worth out of it. Often people think it would be safer to get that 2019 model with all the newest safety features. But if all the new gadgets with the electronic features lead to confusion, and indecision in making driving decisions, the safety features could be counterproductive. Sometimes the familiar can be an advantage over the latest electronic controls and warnings which are not familiar. So when making that decision on a new car, think about both the car and the person driving.

One of the saddest days of my life was watching my mother try to change her TV channels with her portable phone. She had lost all ability to discern the TV remote from herportable phone. Often people have shared similar stories about their parents.

The real point of this article is to give food for thought to families trying to help their elderly parents or grandparents continue to be self sufficient. Both the equipment, whether TV, appliances or automobiles, and the operation, due to cognitive and physical ability, and familiarity with today’s digital world, need to be considered. Now I have to go and ask my wife to change the TV channel to the Patriots game, as she has the Giants on.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are partners in the law firm of Allaire Elder Law.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are members of the National Academy of Elder Law. Attorneys, Inc.
Allaire Elder Law is a highly respected, and highly rated law firm with offices in Bristol, CT.
We can be contacted by phone at (860) 259-1500 or by email.

If you have a question, send a written note to us and we may use your question in a future column.

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