While growing up in India, I have a distinct memory of what my grandfather used to do every morning. After his morning tea, and snorting powdered tobacco (called “bajar” in Gujarati), he used to head off to see Magankaka, an elderly cousin of his. At Magankaka’s auto parts store a mile away, he and his elderly friends used to gather and gossip. That was the highlight of his day.
Remove the common location aspect of the gathering in the morning, and that is what I, a modern grandfather, do almost every morning. I flip open my laptop and see what my fellow elderly folks are doing. We gossip and brag on Facebook, carry out serious discussions using the Yahoo group email, and catch up thanks to WhatsApp. Where we are located is not important any more.
Take it to the next level; from individual to a community, we now have several virtual villages coming up. This is in response to the basic needs of elders that were being satisfied by physical villages in the past…. camaraderie and helping each other out.
As mentioned in a story in NY Times on this topic, “Virtual village members stay in touch through village websites and email, or by calling local village offices. Many villages also turn to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to stay in touch,” according to Ms. Willett who was director of Village to Village Network, a national organization devoted to strengthening the Village Movement.
“This socializing gives people a greater sense of purpose and increases well-being, said Dr. Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist in Miami and author of a book called ‘How we age.’” “As people get older, they face the major dilemma of isolation,” Dr. Agronin said in the NY Times story. “Having a local network of people to engage with opens up whole new worlds. It’s about discovering your strengths and the joy of living.”
The whole concept of the need to share a physical location with other human beings in order to derive certain benefits is undergoing a change.
So, what is next? It appears that the concept of what constitutes a “country” is also going to change. A pioneer is the little country of Estonia. According to an article in The New Yorker (Dec 18 & 25, 2017), titled “The Digital Republic,” Estonia’s challenge was to expand its population. It is after all a home to only 1.3 million people, and if one thinks of countries as enterprises, growth brings prosperity. Taavi Kotka, Estonia’s CIO, decided that it is possible to increase the population just by changing how you think about what is meant by a country’s population. “If everything is digital, and location independent, you can run a borderless country,” says Kotka according to the New Yorker article.
So, Estonia has launched a digital “residency” program, “which allows registered foreigners to partake in some Estonian services, such as banking, as if they were living in the country.”
Virtual elderly gossip groups, virtual villages, and virtual countries.
It might be the end of the importance of location.