Health Tech Needs Improvement, Seniors Say

As telemedicine better enables care at home, it’s critical to understand what seniors think about emerging technology and how they use health and wellness capabilities from devices. From wearable monitors that track activity to sensors that can support a home health aide’s care plan, health and wellness technology is complementing .

But are older adults into the trend?

Not really, according to a recent technology report by Link-age Connect, a research and consultancy firm that conducts market research on the aging population 65+, and Aging in Place Technology Watch, a market research business that focuses on technologies and services that enable seniors and baby boomers to remain longer in their homes. The findings oppose a 2015 survey that found nearly two-thirds of seniors prefer to use self-care technology to independently manage their health.

The problem with health and wellness technology is that it’s not useful enough for seniors to want to use them, says Laurie Orlov, an industry analyst and founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch.

“[The findings] imply that trackers are not useful enough for seniors to use,” Orlov told Home Health Care News. “The wearables market is in the early stage, and hopefully it will get better. The most important thing about the tracker as seniors age is that there is some way to urge them to get up and move. Most trackers aren’t urging seniors to get up and move.”

Compared to just a few years ago, older adults are more connected. Most seniors in the survey were online and had access to the Internet, compared to 33% in 2011. However, for home health agencies to rely on some telemedicine capabilities, seniors actually need to use new technology as part of their lifestyle.

While many seniors realized the benefits of health and wellness technology, they noted several issues with using new devices and programs in the survey. Just over 40% of seniors said they owned a smartphone, though more than 65% did own a cellphone of some kind. Respondents who were older than 80 were the least likely to own a smartphone compared to younger baby boomers.

“I am quite old and new technological gadgets seem to be programmed by young people who grew up with computers and, consequently, assume that the user will know what to do in a confusing situation,” a respondent older than 85 said. “My friends often mention how frustrating this is.”

Compared to a previous survey in 2011, most responders were still unwilling to pay for health and wellness technologies, even if they recognized the benefits of their utilization. More than 60% of respondents said they weren’t willing pay any amount for these technologies on a monthly basis. However, more than 10% said they already do. The results reveal that if seniors are going to own health trackers, they will choose free applications that can track their data over paid services.

Health care have an opportunity to engage seniors in these technologies by providing training for older adults, either online or in-person, to teach them how to use wearable technology, smartphones, laptops and tablets. Orlov says the industry should also encourage the technology industry to embrace senior care.

“The senior care industry is not working hard enough to engage the tech industry, and the tech industry is fast to ignore the senior care industry,” Orlov said. “That’s a bad combination. You have to bring those two together.”

Written by Amy Baxter