OLPG: One Laptop per Granny

One Laptop Per Child for the older folk

Bruce Nussbaum has suggested a new program that is a spinoff of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. He suggests putting as much design innovation into helping old folks as was put into the OLPC. So, how do we start? I guess the first area would be to conduct a great deal of interviews to see what the oldest generations in our society really want. Is it more companionship? Is it a way into more self expression? Is it more human activity? Is it to share wisdom? Maybe it’s that some people need more familiar or easy to use interfaces. It’s so hard to speculate on innovation until we know what people might benefit from through research and experimentation.

I’d hate to make a guess, but from what I’ve seen of the older generations, self expression and activity are the most important factors and not necessarily the need to create a broad social network.

I’ve observed this with my wife’s boss Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of City Lights Books. He is nearly 90 now, and yet he continues to paint, write, ride a bicycle, and go into work a few times per week. He’s friendly but not terribly talkative. He really spends a good amount of time with very few people. How does he keep it up? I think Lawrence does it through the creative process. It keeps his mind fresh even if his body is starting to fail. He seems incredibly content, too. He also does not know how to use a computer. He seems to sustain himself and his contentment by never setting up these boundaries to what he should do as an older gentleman. Just this striping of the mental boundary of retirement, I believe, could lead to a more content society.

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