A Hacker’s Guide to Getting Old

It’s no surprise that things change as we age, and that tasks that were once trivial become difficult. Case in point: my son asked for help with the cord on his gaming headset the other night. The cable had broken and we could see frayed conductors exposed. When I got it apart, I found that I could barely see the ultra-fine wires to resolder them after cutting out the bad section. I managed to do it, but just barely.

This experience got me thinking about how to deal with the inevitable. How do you stay active as a hacker once your body starts to fight you more than it helps you? I’m interested mostly in dealing with changes in vision, but also in loss of dexterity and fine motor skills, and dealing with cognitive changes. This isn’t a comprehensive list of the ravages of time, but they’re probably the big ones that impact any hacker-related hobby. I enlisted a couple of my more seasoned Hackaday colleagues, [Bil] and [Rud], for their tips and tricks to deal with these issues.

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The Race to Develop Technology that Enhances Elder Care

It happens with every generation – we’re born, our parents care for us and nurture us, we grow up, they grow old, and then we switch roles and care for them. Soon it’ll be my turn to be the caregiver to my parents, and I recently got a preview of things to come when my mom fell and busted her ankle. That it wasn’t the classic broken hip was a relief, but even “just” a broken ankle was difficult enough to deal with. I live 40 minutes away from the ‘rents, and while that’s not too bad when the visits are just the weekly dinner at Grammy’s, the time and the miles really start to add up when the visits turn into every other day to make sure Mom’s getting around OK and Dad is eating and sleeping.

I was sorely tempted to hack some kind of solution to give myself a rudimentary telepresence, but I couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t have either been unacceptably intrusive (think webcams) or difficult to support from an IT perspective. Mom’s pretty handy with the iPad and she Skypes with my brother and his family out in California, but beyond leveraging that I was tapped out for ideas that I could easily deploy and would deliver sufficient value beyond the support burden within the time frame of healing the ankle. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in the car this summer.

This experience got me to thinking about how intergenerational caregiving will change with the rise of pervasive technology. The bad news: we’re still going to get old, and getting old sucks. The good news is, I think technology is going to make things easier for caregivers and elders alike. We have an incredible range of technology experiences among the generations present right now, from my parents who can remember phones without dials and nights spent listening to the radio, to my daughter’s generation that is practically growing up with supercomputers in the palms of their hands. How each generation ages and how it embraces technology as a solution for age-related problems are going to be vastly different.

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Daily photo aging project on steroids

We’ve seen those videos where people take a picture of themselves every day. [Dan Hanna] took it to a much further level.  He built a camera rig and took pictures of himself for 17 years.  That is not a typo, 17 years. The rig consists of a ring that holds two cameras opposing each other.  He centers his head facing a target that he increments around the ring every day before taking a picture.  The ring can be split into 4 sections for portability.  Check out the low resolution video after the break.

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