Future Prospects

How can we realize our ultimate goal: self-activating, self-respecting, independent human beings who have lived long and productive lives and who seek self-actualization in ways not too far removed from life as they have known it? How can we ensure continuity and avoid discontinuity to prevent illness, premature aging, desperation, and suicide? That is the challenge facing the ''brave old world.''

Much freedom can be afforded older persons through technology. Some answers have been suggested through the NASA space-exploration program and the transfer of some of the sophisticated technologies to civilian needs. The challenge that faces us requires that in developing technology for the elderly, it is important to bear in mind the following: How can we return control to the individual to ensure greater well-being for the individual and caregivers? How can we face realistically the alterations in demography and in the work force? How can we provide health care that augments the capabilities of the aged individual? Finally, how can we create a humane and caring environment to accommodate an aging world?

It is important to remember that the introduction and acceptance of new technologies is a human problem of long standing. For example, a newspaper editorial in 1834 said of a medical instrument: ''That it will ever come into general use, notwithstanding its value, is extremely doubtful because its beneficial application requires much time and gives a good bit of trouble, both to the patient and the practitioner because its hue and character are foreign and opposed to all our habits and associations. There is something even ludicrous in the picture of a gray physician proudly listening through a long tube applied to the patient's thorax'' (Anonymous, 1834). That London Times editorial was criticizing the introduction of the stethoscope.

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