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Housing and Technology

Retirement, Work, Education, And Leisure

Working at home is now a reality for a substantial number of Americans. The home office, with its computer, facsimile machine, and telephone, is now a definitive part of the household environment. The relationship between work and retirement is variable and flexible. Retirement for many may occur more than once or twice, and many that have left careers are at least partially employed. Clearly, new generations of older Americans can anticipate longer careers, several forms of employment, more changes of career, and intermittent work roles mixed with periods of retirement. This is a very different picture from the image of a person working for one company for three decades, being given a gold watch, and picking up a fishing pole with no thought of continuing in any form of active employment. Older adults in the twenty-first century may experience a much later onset of formal retirement and never be fully removed from the workforce until health changes alter their ability to continue working. The home office will grow in importance as this societal change inexorably moves forward. Many professional women will experience the ebb and flow of work, family, and retirement—all related to the options afforded through the home office.

The home is also becoming a primary location for education. America is at the beginning of a new age of life-long learning. The University of Phoenix has been among the leading institutions offering distance education and degree programs to a global student body. Before the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, many institutions of higher education will be offering courses to more students off-campus than are residents in dormitories on campus. The home is also a learning center for a growing number of older Americans. They may become involved in educational programs for intellectual stimulation, but many will be involved in degree programs through distance education.

Asynchronous education is the term applied to self-learning at one's own pace. Once again, computing permits an extension of many forms of learning without the presence of teachers. The classroom of the future may well be a large flat screen connected to a robust home-computing system that connects students all over the world. Windowing onscreen will allow real-time discussion. Instantaneous translations will permit a history teacher in India to offer a history course to a class of young and old students on campuses, at other locations, and in their own homes. Broadband technology will provide the teacher (and the student) the ability to call up still photographic visual materials and streaming video in electronic form. After the lecture, course notes, the lecture itself, and support materials will be available on an on-call basis. Indeed, the class itself will likely be prerecorded for logging on at any time, with prescribed times for exchanges with the teacher. It may not be possible to tell the difference between much of what will become available in the form of educational materials, actual courses, and entertainment. There are a variety of terms now applied to these mixed forms of presentation, including infotainment and edutainment. The presence of computer technology has already changed the classroom and the approach to teaching almost every subject.

For older adults, the implications of these changes in education, work, and entertainment may blur the distinction between activities. It will also be a means for continuous involvement and intellectual stimulation that could have a beneficial effect upon well-being and health and wellness. Computing could be used to support memory as well as continuing education. Repetition requires patience on the part of a teacher, but a computer doesn't care and can be called upon to repeat information continuously.

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 2Housing and Technology - Anticipating The Future Needs Of Older Adults, Technology Trends, Advanced Residential Technology—the House That Learns