Marja Pijl, Health and Long Term Care Professional and active member of the dutch Older Women’s Network from the Netherlands shares her story with us.
I have problems with the thermostat for my new highly efficient gas furnace for the central heating. It has a poorly legible screen: unclear letters, blue background mounted against the wall; I need a flashlight to read it. In order to fix the programme, a lot of different actions need to be carried out, all requiring fine motor skills which many old people do not have any more.
The person who installed it set up a programme for me so that every day the heating starts at the same time in the morning and goes off at the same time every evening. Yet if I go away for several days, I should install a different programme which requires me to do a lot of actions and which I experience as rather complicated. The manual not being very clear, I guess I would leave the thermostat as it is… I sent an e-mail to the manufacturer informing him that his product was not very age-friendly. They replied to me that I could get in touch with them by telephone for remote assistance, which was not useful at the time, because I did not need to change the running programme.
Similarly, I experienced difficulties in changing the thermostat batteries. I could not find how to open the case: the user manual was not very clear with this regard, it only showed a picture with the entire front being taken off, but it did not tell how to do it. I did not dare to pull very hard for fear of tearing the entire thermostat off the wall, so I asked the company that had installed it to come to my rescue, which they did. Again, I informed the manufacturer of the problem I had had, and he again offered me remote assistance but the problem had already been solved. Would remote assistance have been useful? I did not see myself standing in front of the thermostat with my phone in one hand, flashlight in the other and trying to manipulate the thermostat following their instructions.
Thus I now have a very efficient furnace that I cannot use efficiently because the thermostat is too difficult to manipulate.
If my cat does not face any issue with the thermostat, he has his own struggle with the cat flap. Eight months ago I got him a new cat flap that works with a chip. My cat has one in his breast but the poor cat does not understand that he can open the flap by moving close to the device. Instead he uses his paws and tries as hard as he can to open it. Logically enough, he damaged the flap twice. I myself cannot open the flap by hand as I am not chipped. But how can you teach animals to deal with ICT?
Recently, Jikky – that is my cat’s name – attacked the cat flap again in his effort to get in, after what I kept hearing a strange noise. I went to find out and saw it was the cat flap where a small peg, used to close the flap for unknown cats, kept coming out of its hole and sinking in again. I did not see any other mechanism to stop it than taking out the batteries. Then the noise stopped and the cat flap is now usable as an ordinary cat flap that lets in any cat, not just Jikky. I think I will leave it that way until I notice a new intruder. I hope that my neighbours’ cat has learned in the meantime that he is not welcome in my house…