For family members, it is often the most difficult and painful decision they will face: to accept that a loved one - a parent, a spouse, perhaps a sibling - is technologically impaired and should no longer be allowed to live independently, or come near a computer or electronic device without direct supervision. The time has come to place that loved one into the care of an Assisted Computing Facility.
But you have questions. So many questions. We at Silicon Pines want to help.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN "ASSISTED COMPUTING FACILITY"?
Sometimes referred to as "Homes for the Technologically Infirm", "Technical Invalid Care Centers", or "Homes for the Technically Challenged", Assisted Computing Facilities (ACFs) are modeled on assisted living facilities, and provide a safe, structured residential environment for those unable to handle even the most common, everyday multitasks. Most fully accredited ACFs, like Silicon Pines, are an oasis of hope and encouragement that allow residents to lead productive, technologically relevant lives without the fear and anxiety associated with actually having to understand or execute the technologies themselves.
WHO SHOULD BE IN AN ACF?
Sadly, technology is advancing at such a dramatic rate that many millions, of all ages, will never truly be able to understand it, putting an undue burden on those friends and family members who must explain it to them. But unless the loved one is suffering from a truly debilitating affliction, such as Reinstallzheimers, the decision to commit is entirely personal. You must ask yourself:
"How frustrated am I that my parent/sibling/spouse is unable to open an email attachment?"
"How much of my time should be taken up explaining how RAM is different from hard drive memory?"
"How many times can I bear to hear my father say, 'Hey, can I replace the motherboard with a fatherboard? Ha ha ha!'"
To make things easier, we have prepared a list of Warning Signs which we encourage you to return to often, or, if you can't figure out how to bookmark it, print out. Also, please take a moment to read "I'm Glad I'm in Here! - A Resident's Story".
MUST IT BE FAMILY, OR CAN I PLACE ANYONE IN AN ACF?
Several corporations have sought permission to have certain employees, or at times entire sales departments, committed to ACFs. At present, however, individuals can be committed only by direct family or self-internment. The reason is simple: there are not nearly enough ACFs in the world to accommodate all the technologically challenged. For example there are currently only 860,000 beds available in ACFs, but there are 29 million AOL users.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
ACF rents range from free up to $12,500 per month. The disparity is currently a point of contention in the ACF industry. Many residents are covered through government programs such as Compuaid or Compucare, but reimbursement rates are low and only cover a portion of the fees.
Exacerbating the situation are the HMOs (HelpDesk Maintenance Organizations), which often deny coverage, forcing residents to pay out of pocket or turn to expensive private techcare insurers such as BlueCache/BlueScreen. Offsetting the costs are technology companies themselves, many of which subsidize ACFs. Firms such as Microsoft, Dell, Qualcomm, and America Online will pay up to 100 percent of a resident's monthly bill, but there is a catch. ISPs, for instance, require residents to sign service contracts lasting a year or more. Microsoft, meanwhile, prohibits the installation of any competitive software, while Priceline requires that residents buy shares of its stock, which seems onerous but saves residents on lavatory tissue.
HOW OLD MUST I BE TO HAVE SOMEONE COMMITTED?
Until very recently, you had to be 18 or older to legally commit a family member. However, the now famous British court case Frazier vs. Frazier and Frazier has cleared the way for minors to commit their parents. In that case, 15-year-old Bradley Frazier of Leicester had his 47-year-old parents committed to an ACF in Bournemouth after a judge ruled Ian and Janet Frazier were a "danger to themselves and the community". According to court records, Bradley told his parents about the "I Love You" virus and warned them not to click attachments, then the next day his parents received an "I Love You" email and clicked on the attachment because, they explained, "It came from someone we know."
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN AN ACF?
First, make sure it's a genuine Assisted Computing Facility, and not an Assisted Living Facility. To tell the difference, observe the residents. If they look rather old and tend to openly discuss bowel movements, this is probably 'assisted living.' On the other hand, if they vary in age and say things like, "I'm supposed to figure that out? I'm not Bill %$#*&@ Gates you know!", this is probably 'assisted computing.'
Also, at a well-run ACF, residents should lead full, independent lives, and should be allowed the use of many technology devices, including telephones, electric toothbrushes, and alarm clocks. However, only a facility's Licensed Techcare Professionals (LTPs) should perform computational or technological tasks such as installing programs or saving email attachments. And LTPs should NEVER answer residents' questions because studies have shown that answering user questions inevitably makes things worse. Instead, residents should simply have things done for them, relieving them of the pressure to "learn" or "improve".
CAN A RESIDENT EVER GET OUT?
OK, THIS SOUNDS PROMISING. HOW CAN I LEARN MORE?
For your enlightenment, we offer extensive information on Silicon Pines and the ACF lifestyle, which can be found by clicking one of the links in the navigation bars found at both the top and bottom of this page. But whatever you decide, keep in mind that due to demand, ACFs now have long waiting lists. WebTV & AOL users alone will take years to absorb.