I Couldn't Care Less: Virtual Reality

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A hypodermic needle and a vial

Virtual Reality

At the charity shop where I volunteer, I usually work with an elderly lady who loves cute cat videos and hates the internet. This struck me immediately as an enormous shame, because twitter has so much to offer this lady. What strikes me as a greater shame though, is the carers who aren't able to take advantage of the benefits technology offers them. Many of the carers I have met are elderly and some have articulated a specific distrust of the internet. This is, of course, entirely understandable. Anyone naturally dubious about going online doesn't have to look far to see stories of hacking, pornography, terrorism and paedophiles. This is all true, of course, because technology really just transmits people. But there are plenty of people who shouldn't be written off because of the rest.

The first thing you can benefit from is information. When I first managed to get disability living allowance for R, about seven years ago, I couldn't have done it without online access to information about how decisions were made. I mused about that in this space some time ago, and while I still can't see that it's fair, it is what it is and you might as well take advantage of it. More than that, though, you can find support groups for the specific ailment you are facing, as well as groups designed for carers. More on that in a minute. There are also online caring courses you can do, booklets you can download and all sorts of applications to make your life easier if you have the time and the inclination. Better still, a lot of it is free.

Notice how I dropped in a little enticement to you to keep reading? Yep- those carer groups. Well there are at least a couple to my certain knowledge (and therefore almost certainly many more) who run chatrooms and message boards so you can link up with other carers. Imagine that. You are caring for someone with a rare condition nobody seems to have much knowledge of, but the internet can connect you with another person who cares for someone with the same condition- even if they are in Paraguay. You can chat to carers your age, or carers who have been there and done it. You can even work through the surprisingly cathartic process of giving solace and support to those less experienced or simply more stressed than yourself. Come on, it's at your fingertips people.

Last but not least, the internet gives you access to the real world. Often I'm stuck indoors for one reason or another. Plenty of people caring for those more severely disabled than R will be much more housebound that I am. I know social media is unpopular and all, but Facebook means I can keep vaguely up to date with the much more exciting lives the rest of my family are having. It also means I can play scrabbled with my Grandfather. Now that he has a tablet (he's 91! What's your excuse?) I can e-mail him. Twitter means there is almost always someone to talk to. It also means I can connect with other carers and find other carers' groups and organisations that I hadn't know about for myself. I love to write, and access to the internet means I can share this with other people (hello) and even find places that will broadcast or publish what I write (in theory). I can listen to my favourite comedy online, when it suits me. I can sit my bedroom and reach out to the world. And the world can reach back.

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