In the boardroom of FutureCare, a meeting was about to occur that would forever change the shape of this long-established company. A man stood before the windows that ran from floor to ceiling at the front of the boardroom, staring intently across the city that stretched out before him.
“If I could call this meeting to order”.
There was silence in the room, but he fully expected there to be silence. He waited for a moment, leaning his weight on his hands against the window and taking a deep inwards breath.
“As you know”, he continued in a slow and measured voice. “FutureCare is the industry leader in providing for the needs of our Elders, giving them dignity and comfort in their later days. We have designed housing, medical services and personal care to suit their every need. We are leaders in creating the very definition of care in our field.”
“Note I said, ‘We are leaders’. We lead. We anticipated the needs of our Elders, and we provided for those needs with precision and without hesitation. FutureCare is a leader. It is ahead of the rest.”
He walked slowly back and forth across the front of the boardroom as he spoke, keeping his gaze averted from the rest of the room and towards the buildings before him.
“But now, we face a new world, unlike anything we have ever seen. It is the world of the Next Generation. It is a generation unlike our own. It is a generation of great change and brings with it great challenge”.
“It has been a generation without cares. A generation that was to be forever young. A generation that was to find the key to immortality, and save themselves forever”.
He stood firmly, his eyes firmly fixed on the view from the boardroom windows, warming to his topic as his voice pitched upwards by several tones.
“But it became a generation of disaster and despair. A generation that aged and died more quickly than its Elders. And now a generation that needs care from those very Elders at a time when we ourselves are aging”.
“So it has become the challenge of FutureCare to provide the care this younger generation now needs, as their minds and bodies show the collective ravages of lives lived in an electronic and impersonal world”.
The room remained silent behind him.
“And now, in providing for this Next Generation, FutureCare must again take the lead. We cannot fall victim to those who wish to block and mock the progress we must make in our ideas and methods. We must again create the definition of care in our field.”
He stopped pacing, and squared his shoulders, as if in readying himself for protests and objections from the room. There were none. After several moments, he continued speaking.
“It has always been a cornerstone of FutureCare to design for the needs of the generation, even when those designs challenged our values and altered the way services were delivered. And to deliver our products without fear of the criticisms and reprisals that innovation so often draws.”
“Today I deliver to you the future of FutureCare, and trust that those around me will grasp the vision for the care of our Next Generation, and show the strength of character it will require to bring that vision to reality.”
Immediately blinds moved soundlessly to cover the expansive windows, and the room was plunged into total darkness. The view of the city was replaced by a glistening hologram of the FutureCare logo. The man’s voice continued, coming now from the numerous speakers set into the walls of the boardroom.
“FutureCare. I give you the future in care for the Next Generation”, intoned the voice, as a photo of an apparently young man replaced the FutureCare logo. As the image grew larger, the haggard lines on the man’s face became more visible, along with the red-rimmed eyes and yellowed thinning skin.
“We have designed for the care needs of the Next Generation”, declared the voice, as the image zoomed in to show missing teeth, fading tattoos and brittle, greying hair.
“We will not impose the values of our Elders on this generation, but will provide care for them that will continue the lifestyle standards and desires they so diligently pursued for themselves”.
The room again darkened briefly, and an image of a doorway filled the screen. The door slowly opened, as the voice continued.
“The Next Generation were lovers of indoor pursuits, and uncomfortable in direct contact with their peers. Our care accommodation must reflect that. We must be prepared to move away from our traditional concepts of shared housing and personal interaction that served the needs of our Elders. We have designed individual spaces for the Next Generation with doors that can firmly close out the external world.”
The camera moved around the walls of the individual accommodation space designed for the Next Generation. Four walls and one door.
“It was our Elders who had a need to view the world outside their dwellings. They wanted to gaze at the landscape around them with its people and its buildings and even the sky above. This is not the want of the Next Generation. They do not desire this input, and have firmly shunned it with their closed doors and dark curtains across their windows. They have show distress when light is filtered into their accommodation spaces, and are overwhelmed by intrusions from the world outside. We do not wish for them to live in such discomfort in their waning years, but have provided them instead with windowless walls.”
The colours on the screen sharpened into focus, showing clothing, food containers, papers, toiletries, magazines and electronic items scattered liberally around the floor.
“It was the generation of the Elders that demanded storage of items in specified locations. During their lifetimes they invested thousands, no tens of thousands, of hours of time and energy in carrying those items from place to place and storing them in pre-defined places. And in care facilities, paid workers continued this ceaseless activity on the Elders’ behalf.”
“The Next Generation chafed under this rigidity, decrying this expenditure of their resources and how it separated them from the spontaneous arrangement of their possessions and their perpetual access to these items. We must respect their desires, and desist from installing our cupboards, shelves and drawers in their accommodation spaces. We will ensure that paid workers do not intrude into their lives to relocate their possessions to such arbitrarily pre-determined enclosures. Only then can we ensure that the choices of the Next Generation in arranging their possessions will be preserved each and every day.”
A take-away container came into view on the screen, followed by an image of a paper cup and a white plastic fork.
“Food is a source of great comfort. What we consume, how it is prepared and how we consume it are central to our very identity. Our Elders longed for meals of meat and vegetables, prepared in our kitchens and eaten in the company of others on china plates with silver utensils. And we provided for their needs, and therefore brought them great pleasure. The Next Generation deserve similar pleasure from our ability to understand and meet their food needs. They do not seek the kitchens and dining rooms that served our Elders. Instead, we must ensure that there is 24 hour access for the take-away food vans and pizza delivery cars that provide for their nutrition. We will protect their preference for eating from cardboard boxes and with plastic forks, and for eating in the uninterrupted solitude of their accommodation spaces.”
The screen blurred into a mass of undefined colour, before sharpening onto the outline of a bed. No other furniture was visible in the room.
“Our Elders had many demands for their comfort. Even in their declining years they wanted a bed, a reclining chair, a foot stool, a dressing table, a cupboard, a hat stand”.
Even through the surround sound speakers, the slight taint of frustration was evident.
“They were not content to settle in one position, but claimed to only find comfort when they could repeatedly move from one place to another. Another chair, another stool, another bench. Even at night, our Elders were not content to remain in their beds, but would rise frequently and discontentedly move from one piece of furniture to another. Our Next Generation have more streamlined needs. They do not wish to move aimlessly from place to place, but prefer the comfort of their beds for most of their waking hours. And they are content to remain in their beds for much of the daylight hours, as well as the night hours regardless of their sleep status. We will invest our efforts in providing beds for this generation, and avoid the wastage that would come from the provision of needless furniture in their accommodation spaces.”
The camera now moved backwards out of the room, and started a journey down a long corridor. It passed many similar doors, before turning at right angles and continuing down another long corridor containing even more doors.
“Our Elders were not satisfied with their own accommodation space, but demanded areas that they could congregate in groups. They insisted on developing their own entertainment, regardless of its quality or usefulness. They wanted pianos and songs and crafts. The Elders would even sit in this duplication of space while simply verbalising material they had verbalised many times before”.
“In our redesign, we have removed the facilities that are neither wanted nor needed by our Next Generation, thereby allowing us to offer more accommodation spaces. Gone are the redundant shared spaces, removing the burden of group interaction. The Next Generation has been relieved of expectations to provide for their own entertainment needs, through our facilitation of facilities for packaged entertainment and solitary activities”.
The edges of a small screen appeared to fill the big screen at the front of the room, and the camera then panned back to show a set of headphones.
“Contrary to the thoughts of many, our Next Generation did not live in isolation. They desired connection to their world, but it was not connection as known by our Elders. It was our challenge to understand the connections of the Next Generation so that we could replicate these patterns as central to their care needs.”
The small screen came into view, resting briefly on one image after another – a face, a building, a car, a wine glass. The images flicked through with ever increasing speed to create a haze of barely distinguishable shapes, outlines and colours.
“This generation desires an ever-changing, ever-moving breadth of information. They do not wish to stagnate on any one issue, but seek input on a vast array of topics. They look for that information continuously and with great rapidity. This very speed and volume allows them to comfortably accommodate any informational inconsistencies and discrepancies, without resorting to needless analysis or expending unnecessary cognitive effort.”
“And we will provide for their needs. In each accommodation unit, each member of the Next Generation will be provided with a continuous stream of information through their personal screens and personal headphones. We will not filter their information nor trouble them with excessive detail or needless commentary. We will not trouble them with distinctions between standards of information sources or measures of information accuracy.”
The screen faded to black, and light filtered in the room as the blinds slowly retracted from the windows. The man remained standing at the front of the room, gazing towards the buildings outside. He did not turn before delivering the final words of his presentation.
“This new vision is unlike anything that has been seen in our industry before. Possibly unlike anything that has been seen in our lifetimes. But the Next Generation is before us, and it is a generation unlike anything that this world has seen before.”
He paused. Almost as an afterthought he added, “Any questions? Comments?”
As before, there was silence in the room. He turned from the window. Apart from himself standing before the glass windows, the room was empty.
(20 September 2015)