LifeShare’s tech ecosystem has been built upon a philosophy called passive engagement, and sometimes that makes me uncomfortable.

By the time I left college, I owned three different copies of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, the 1959 prescriptive guide to “proper” writing, which I read for well-meaning and often disappointed Lit and Comp instructors. The word passive does not come out too well in the book. It doesn’t receive a lot of airplay in senior living either. We laud the importance of active aging for good reason. Still, the word passive is not aspirational. Even Google cannot retrieve a result for “society for passive aging”.

Yet passive engagement is important for successful use of technology. In Brookdale’s recent Rewiring Aging study, 27 percent of respondents said they use no technological devices. Forty-seven percent of survey respondents said new technology takes too much time to figure out. Passive engagement means a solution is created to be used as easily as possible to acquire a benefit (such as communicating with loved ones) with minimal learning or behavior modification required. Technology should not be hard work.

The benefits of addressing social isolation are too compelling to put barriers in the way of those who need them. This is why LifeShare makes it easy for seniors to get right to the active engagement that is truly rewarding in their own room on their own television with a single universal remote.  Sending and receiving messages and texts from loved ones, sharing pictures and schedules with their families, and even enjoying therapeutic music, games, and faith programming is so much simpler when it uses a tool people already know.

The word passive may not be flattering when it refers to how we live our lives, but it’s definitely positive when it describes the design of the tools we use to get us to the tasks that bring us the most joy.