Patient emerging of purpose to uplift a community

For the first decade of my life, I grew up in Wealdstone, an area of Harrow that has since significantly changed over the years. With some spare time this afternoon, I visited Wealdstone and sat on a public bench opposite the Holy Trinity Church, a building I was always intrigued by when I was a young boy.

As I sat, alone on the bench with a hot coffee in my hand, keeping my backpack close next to me, I recollected the times growing up in the area, the trip to the local bakery or the bank or the shoe shop with my mum and brother. I remembered going to the park, accompanied by my dad who taught my brother and I how to ride a bike.

As I continued to sit this afternoon, on World Mental Health Day, I observed the local community, some on their way back home from a long day at work, mothers and their children walking home from their after-school activities, others humming while cycling, or those walking while engrossed in their phone screens.

I also witnessed young men subtly exchanging what looked like small brown packets and bank notes. I noticed other young men, sipping on a can of beer concealed by a plastic bag. I saw elderly men, some sitting alone, appearing so lonely, talking to themselves. I saw other elderly men in groups, prising open a bottle of whisky and twisting open a bottle of water to dilute the whisky (thereby making the drink last that much longer).

Witnessing all this loneliness, this lack of purpose, this need to numb their pain through alcohol or drugs of some sort, made me feel very sad. In some ways, I wanted to help them out of their suffering and in other ways, I wanted to just let them be.

Looking closer, I noticed something beyond the sadness, beyond the loneliness, beyond the pain. I noticed that majestic spirit, trapped, concealed, enslaved, but still there. It was present in the everlasting beyond the transient. It came through in the way the man sitting alone tapped his legs on the paving on the ground. It showed clearly in the way the group of men engaged with each other. It was apparent through the interactions, through the gestures, through the eyes, through each breath.

It’s in that moment that I felt a sense of calm, a sense that the town I grew up in, has perhaps not degraded in the way I first thought, as it still houses the very spirit that has the potential to uplift the entire community. In that moment, I witnessed hope, joy, wisdom and a sense of purpose, eagerly seeking to emerge.

Google Home – the hands-free smart speaker assistant for the elderly

Google Home Google Home, the hands-free smart speaker alternative to Amazon Echo, offers great potential to assist older people in their homes, particularly for those with visual impairments, who find it difficult to move, or who struggle with touchscreen devices.

While not hugely different to using a smartphone and initiating Google Assistant by saying “OK Google…”, older people can benefit from a digital personal assistant in the space in their home that they use the most – typically their living room.

Uses of Google Home for older people

Here are ways in which Google Home can be used by the elderly now or in the very near future. Some of these work with Google Home out of the box, while others require integration with other connected and smart devices as well as other services.

Controlling the home (via connected devices):

  • turn on, off, or dim lights
  • change the temperature in the room or the entire home
  • lock and unlock windows and doors
  • open and close windows and doors
  • set the home security alarm

Everyday reminders:

  • add items to a shopping list
  • review the shopping list
  • set an appointment reminder
  • set a reminder to take medication

Searching for answers (Google’s forté!):

  • the weather – today or a later date
  • key facts about a particular person, location, etc.
  • local vegetarian food delivery
  • public transport – e.g. next bus from home to the shopping centre

Communication:

  • make a phone call
  • send a text message or email
  • start a Skype video call through the TV
  • book a taxi

Entertainment (some via connected devices):

  • play music on Spotify – a specific song, a playlist or a genre
  • play a YouTube video on TV
  • stream a Netflix show to the TV
  • “tell me a joke!”

Do shopping:

  • research items to buy
  • place an order

Benefits of Google Home for older people

The far-field microphones allow voice commands to be picked up from across a room.

Google Home (powered by Google Assitant) can follow your use of pronouns and remember the context for follow-up questions. E.g. “Who is the Queen of England?” and then ask “How old is she?” – Home will know you’re talking about the Queen’s age.

For the visually impaired who can still move comfortably, Google Home has a touch-sensitive top panel allowing the user to swipe gestures to change volume, play and pause music and active Assitant’s listening mode.

Alternatives to Google Home

  • Amazon Echo – allows for a more natural to-and-fro conversation rather than commencing every interaction with the “OK Google” or “Hey Google” wake words.
  • Google Assistant on a smartphone – simply install the app and start using it.

Watch-outs with Google Home and other voice-controlled devices for older people

As information is processed online, information needs to be captured and sent through to Google. Understandably, people don’t like Google always listening to their household. So in an effort to alleviate any privacy concerns, Google has promised it’s not constantly recording you. Home even includes a mute button that completely turns off the listening feature. Google also allows you to take a look at all the data Home sends back and forth (go to myactivity.google.com).

It is possible that Google Home is activated unintentionally, so enabling the mute button turns off the listening feature to minimise this risk. It is also possible that Home misunderstands the request – for example, messaging the wrong person – but it is always learning and adapting to serve the user better. At times, with additional background sounds, it will be difficult for Home to hear the next command, meaning that the user cannot easily stop the music or movie from playing.

The concern with these issues is that the older person, especially one who is anxious about using technology in this new way, might end up getting frustrated at losing control, vowing to never use devices such as this. It is important, therefore, that the one who is setting the device up for them patiently provides adequate training and provides resources for how to learn more, or how to address any issues that might arise.

Should I buy a Google Home device for an older person?

Retailing at £129 but currently available for under £100, this makes it a relatively affordable life-enhancing product. Truly understanding the user’s needs, connecting Google Home up to their other smart devices and patiently providing the right amount of training and resources, the older person will be grateful for being able to live independently and connect better with their family and friends.

Would you set up Google Home for your elderly relative or neighbour?

Photo credit: Image by Next Day Blinds via Flickr

Thanks to Chandesh Parekh for input and guidance.

Quinoa and broccoli – easy vegan lunch

When my aunt sent me a link about the benefits of quinoa for vegetarians and vegans, I knew I had to try it for lunch.

Inspired by the article, I prepared a simple but tasty lunch using just 5 ingredients:

  1. quinoa – prepared on the hob just like rice, for 15 mins.
  2. broccoli – gently steamed on the hob for 3-4 minutes, slightly undercooked – perfect.
  3. water – to prepare the quinoa and the broccoli.
  4. salt – freshly ground rock salt.
  5. pepper – although meal would have been perfect without it too.

Cooking time: 20 minutes

The quinoa was a great substitute to rice – lighter and a slightly nutty flavour. Delicious and filling.

Quinoa and broccoli lunch

Today

Today you’re the oldest you’ve ever been.

Today you’re the youngest you will ever be.

As the oldest you’ve ever been, live life with purpose, clarity and the wisdom of an elder.

As the youngest you’ll ever be, live life with curiosity, wonder and the enthusiasm of youth.

Within you, bring together the elder and the youth, the wisdom and the wonder.

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you will ever be.

Live today with purpose and enthusiasm. Tomorrow do the same.

Overcoming Distractions with Awareness

Why does life get so overwhelming?

We try so hard to do the right thing, follow the right path, and make soulful progress, yet it feels like the world around us is doing everything in it’s power to trip us up.

Occasionally we get a forwarded email that is precisely what we need to read that day.

I was blessed to receive such an email today. The source is unknown but the message is essential. It mentions Satan vs. God, but you could easily exchange these with paap (deluding and destructive karma) vs. Atma (the Soul and it’s nature of abundant, infinite and eternal good and happiness).

Use the message to build your awareness about the distractions and hurdles we face in our Soul’s evolution and through that awareness how to conquer the ‘Devil’s Plans’.

Let me know how you get on…

SATAN’S MEETING!

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons.

In his opening address he said,

“We can’t keep people from going to pray.”

“We can’t keep them from reading their holy books and knowing the truth.”

“We can’t even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their God “.

“Once they gain that connection with GOD, our power over them is broken.”

“So let them go to their prayers; let them have their covered dish
Dinners,BUT steal their time, so they don’t have time to develop a
Relationship with GOD..”

“This is what I want you to do,” said the devil:

“Distract them from gaining hold of their GOD and maintaining that
Vital connection throughout their day!”

“How shall we do this?” his demons shouted.

  “Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable
Schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.

“Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.”

“Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles.”

“Keep them from spending time with their children.”

“As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!”

“Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice.”

 “Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive.” To keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly  in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-religious music constantly.”

“This will jam their minds and break that union with God.”

“Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers.”

“Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day.”

“Invade their driving moments with billboards.”

“Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering
Free products, services and false hopes..”

“Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so their husbands will believe that outward beauty is what’s important, and they’ll become dissatisfied with their wives.

“Keep the wives too tired to love their husbands at night.”

“Give them headaches too! “

“If they don’t give their husbands the love they need, they will begin to look elsewhere.”

“That will fragment their families quickly!”

“Give them distractions to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of life.”

“Even in their recreation, let them be excessive.”

“Have them return from their recreation exhausted.”

“Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God’s creation.   Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays,
Concerts, and movies instead.”

“Keep them busy, busy, busy!”

“And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences. “

“Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from GOD.”

“Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”

“It will work!”

“It will work!”

It was quite a plan!

The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing people everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

Having little time for their God or their families.

Having no time to tell others about the power of GOD to change lives.

I guess the question is, has the devil been successful in his schemes?