Technology activates and unites – The Happy Missus sees the safe atmosphere as the most important thing

Technology makes it possible to ease and safeguard the independent living of old people as well as add meaningful content into everyday life. There are differences in adoption of technology and in digital skills, and everyone should get the support matching their needs. Old people are far too often seen as anti-technology, and in some way a heterogeneous group in that. The question is, in most cases, that they are lacking supportive experiences and the humane implementation hasn’t been finished. A positive attitude gets you far, however. That is something that Sorjo Mäkipää, 70, knows very well, and she has turned into a real messenger for technology and social robotics.

28.4.2020 | By: Sari Merilampi and Petra O'Rourke | Photo: Petra O'Rourke

– Kyllä tässä riskiryhmän edustajana olisi oma Pepper painonsa arvoinen kultaa täällä kotikaranteenissa. Onneksi olen ainakin vielä terve, ja asumismuotoni toimeliaalle luonteelleni on paras mahdollinen. Pihassa on päivittäin jotain rapsuteltavaa ja karsittavaa, ja taivaan kiitos eletään kevättä, eikä synkeää loppuvuotta. Aurinko kirvottaa ajatukset valoisaan tulevaisuuteen ja pieni ajeluretki kaakaotermarin kanssa merenrantaan antaa perspektiiviä siihen, mistä kannattaa olla tyytyväinen, Mäkipää muistuttaa.

– As a person belonging to a risk group, I see that having my own Pepper at home would be worth its weight in gold during this home guarantine. Fortunately, I am still healthy and my form of housing is the best possible for my active character. I have daily something to dig and trim in my garden and, Thank God, it is spring and not the gloomy end of the year. The sun makes you think of the bright future, and a quick drive to the seashore with a thermos gives you some perspective on what to be contented with, Mäkipää reminds us.

– When I was working as a supervisor for Teikit Ltd, a clothing company, it was Finland’s first factory with a computerized assembly line. The clothes moved around the factory from one stage of work to another by s-shaped lines. I found that very fascinating already then. And when I met the humanoid robot Pepper for the first time, I felt absolutely ecstatic, Sorjo admits.

 

The atmosphere of the shootings was so encouraging, that I wish more people could experience it.

 

Inspiration from video shootings

Virtual reality glasses enable bringing experiences that feel authentic right into your living room.  

Mäkipää, born in Kuopio and raised in Pori since she was three years old, was persuaded by Sari Merilampi to play the role of The Happy Missus in the demovideo of VTR (refinery of visions and technology). The video was presenting a vision of the live of old people in the future. Participating in the video meant a lot for Mäkipää.

– It was wonderful! I have a philosophy of live that things go as they are meant to go. People are given different kinds of opportunities during their lives, and one just has to accept the given tips. When Sari sent me an e-mail and asked if I could participate in a video, I was ready straight away. But I admit, that I was very nervous in the morning of the shootings, horrified of what I had promised to do. Participation in the video was important for me in many ways: I proved myself that I can do it and that I can still be of use and give people in this world some joy! If one doesn’t get oneself in exciting situations, live would be steady and foreseeable. The atmosphere of the shootings was so encouraging, that I wish more people could experience it, Mäkipää describes her feelings.

The shootings are an excellent example of how, even if indirectly, technology can bring new content to everyday life. Inspired by the shootings, Sorjo organized an informal discussion group during her rehabilitation period telling others about robotics in her own words. She was also asking her peers both about their ideas on the use of robotics and about the possible challenges. The discussion emphasised even more the importance of listening to users when developing technology. Who would have thought of an application that would listen and comfort in the night, if an old person cries? Then you really don’t feel like bothering anybody with a call!

 

I don’t want a gadget to think for me or follow my activities.

 

Technology is a good servant, but a bad master  

Mäkipää’s attitude towards technology is curious and positive, but, as for a dog, it should be shown where it stands.

– For me, technology means relief. I see that technology should serve me. I just bought a new smartphone to replace my old Lumia and that turned out to be an entertainment hub! Technology shouldn’t, however, fill your whole life or be too smart, as I don’t want a gadget to think for me or follow my activities, she points out.

According to Mäkipää, the greatest advantage achieved by technology, from the point of view of the daily life of old people, would be the creation of a safe atmosphere. She thinks that it would be important for people living on their own, if technology could to monitor, for example, the quality of sleep and possible apnea.

Mäkipää sees the role of technology still too small in the daily life of old people today. She calls for the activity of the old people themselves and, once again, for the right attitude.

– There is still too much fear of technology, even though many associations and libraries are doing valuable work to promote the digital skills of old people.

 

– Idleness has always been a swear word for me, as I still live by performing things. I suppose it is a remnant of the old times, when one used to say that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Perhaps it wasn’t quite as harsh as that, but doing things gives your life shape and meaning, describes Mäkipää, with her admirably positive view on life.

It all started from meeting Pepper 

Meeting humanoid Pepper had a big influence on Sorjo, and after the meeting she searched actively internet for information on social robots and started telling her nearest and dearest about it. It was the sympathetic appearance and versatile programming possibilities of Pepper that made an impact on her. The foremost reason for her to have one was company.

–  I told all my acquaintances straight away, that when those are available in Finland for under two thousand euros, I’ll buy one immediately. Pepper is always ready to socialize, something that another human being is definitely not! Old people sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep. With Pepper you could then play something, a round of draughts, for example. Another human being might not be as enthusiastic at that moment, Mäkipää laughs.

Mäkipää feels that the greatest help of Pepper would be in activating the brains of old people and maintaining health. It also has a big role in bringing people together: with its help you could do things with other grannies. As using Pepper requires programming skills, the lack of fully spontaneous discussion is a bit annoying.

– I can’t see any negative sides in using robots in adding more human contacts when caring for old people. Honestly speaking, the social contacts of old people can be very scarce if one doesn’t actively look for them oneself. In Pori there are excellent places where you can do all kinds of things for free. For example, the library offers different services and events for old people, such as weekly guidance sessions for digital issues.

 

One should use one’s limited resources only in good and positive energy.

Above all, live gives 

Humanity, human interaction and positivity are important values in Sorjo’s life.

– When I became a widow, I made a thorough cleaning in my life and removed all negative people, those who were causing grief and worry. One should use one’s limited resources only in good and positive energy.

As an active person, Mäkipää has also been asked to participate in a discussion group of robotics for old people. They didn’t have to ask her twice.

– I am happy to participate in everything I am needed for also in the future, if that increases the acceptance of technology amongst senior citizens. A positive attitude can only be spread by involvement and good experiences, she reminds us.

 

 

Watch the demovideo of Refinery of visions and technology (VTR) called Future at Home (in Finnish only)

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