Home Engineering The dark side of technology
Inflation and self-isolation
One underlying difficulty for older people, especially those who are retired and living on a pension, is that their mind set is geared to the income and living costs of when they were younger. They therefore see items, both tangible goods and intangible services, and products such as software, as extremely expensive. For a young working person, the same purchases will appear reasonably priced. This is inevitable as, for someone who is now retired, inflation has totally distorted their scale of values. For example, for an adult who is now 70, but still remembers costs and income in terms of initial teenage salaries, the cost of a pint of beer or a loaf of bread will have increased fifty-fold. Average salaries may well have matched this, but that is not the way we see prices, as they are coloured by our memories of when we were first experiencing them. House prices are of course far worse, as they have risen much more steeply. A cautious pattern of spending from older people is inevitable, as they realize that their finances are unlikely to improve, even if they are currently adequate.
This perspective is a disincentive to staying at the forefront of computer and Internet access. For those who only have a state pension, one software package could equal several weeks’ income. For this category of people, there is a further hazard being proposed in which instead of buying software, it is on a contract that requires continuous monthly payments (even if it is only for very occasional usage). For the economic health of the country, this is a poor move, and there may need to be legislation to block such products, especially if it also implies that documents, letters, and photos that have been processed with such rented software can no longer be accessed.
I am concerned by this direction in thinking; for large companies, rented software may be desirable, and if this is a major market, then the software and service providers will see rental as an effective route to income generation, and not worry about the occasional user (particularly if they are ‘only’ elderly or poor).
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