How Digital Health Can Help Seniors Age in Place
The technology should be designed to address a number of challenges; otherwise, it is pretty much useless.
Today's seniors want to age in place and also want technology that is easy to use. If it's not convenient and if it doesn't make their lives better — they won't adopt it.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a few goals modern technologies should help achieve in order to be embraced by the senior population.
Convenience should be the name of the game, but — unfortunately — that is not always the case. The learning curve for some tech solutions could be too steep for seniors. Also, companies are seldom targeting older demographics for their hi-tech products and services. Things are changing and we expect them to change even more in the future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered voice assistants such as an Amazon Alexa smart speaker is a great example of a product just about anyone could use. Instead of visiting the Amazon.com website, Alexa enables users to simply "say it" and the order will be placed. It's that easy, and Alexa will also work for other tasks, such as checking the weather forecast and latest news, listening to the music, taking notes, and more.
Mobile apps and dedicated devices could play a role in improving convenience for seniors, for instance, reminding them to regularly take medications. Wearables could also do the trick, and even encourage the elderly to take a walk every now and then. Plus, some of them double as fall detectors that could alert family members about an incident.
It should be up to doctors, nurses and other caretakers to entice and educate seniors to use digital health tools.
Today's seniors are tech savvier than generations before, with about 80 percent of them owning a cell phone and 60 percent regularly using computers. Also, many are utilizing social platforms like Instagram and Facebook as a means to keep in touch with friends and family.
Nonetheless, when it comes to digital health adoption, this same population is vary. According to study results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), senior citizens are not embracing digital health technology despite the fact they could benefit tremendously from what it has to offer.
Instead, many senior patients spend time calling their doctors and nurses trying to get appointments or more information about their condition or — worse yet — show up at health clinics or ERs.
And again, encouraging seniors to be more proactive about their health should be seen as an important goal, with digital health tools helping bridge the gaps in care, and connecting patients with physicians and caregivers outside of the clinic walls.
3. Staying in Touch
There are several tech solutions that could help senior patients stay in touch with their friends, family and care teams.
- Remote Monitoring — with devices likes digital thermometers, blood-pressure monitors and fitness trackers being able to analyze a range of health markers, including movement and sleep quality, and send that data to the doctor.
- Access to Health Providers — it takes just a few steps for any user to download an app and book an appointment with a local doctor. A similar "effort" is required to order over-the-counter drugs from a local pharmacy, and even find a specialist in one's neighborhood.
- Social Connections — many seniors are already using social networks like Facebook and Instagram to keep up with their friends and family, and such habits should be encouraged.
4. Staying Independent
Staying independent means staying healthy. Technology could help seniors achieve and maintain this independence, while also providing them with a piece of mind, knowing that someone could be easily alerted if they don't feel their best.
As mentioned above, there are already a number of different gadgets on the market that could help seniors manage their health and keep in touch with their doctors. For instance, doctors could suggest their senior patients to wear an activity tracker or a smart watch which would remind them to walk enough every day. Some of these devices could also deliver alerts to the user's wrist, to remind them to take a pill at previously defined times.
In addition, we have software-based solutions that run on smartphones, tablets and/or computers; which could provide seniors with regular weekly/monthly checkups via video calls. Alternatively, a few companies have launched tech-enabled, in-home senior care visit services; these tend to have a mobile app, making scheduling of these visits possible even for the busy folks.
There are solutions out there...
Some are readily available and some are in development as we speak. DHbriefs has released a research brief entitled Senior Care 2.0 that provides an overview of digital health technologies used to improve the care of the elderly. It also explores solutions seniors could rely on to stay independent for longer.
The research brief is available now and you can check it out from here. Do let us know if you have any questions...