Kelly Lee Hardin Clinical services manager Telcare Corporation

From novelty wearable devices that count steps to blood glucose meters that communicate with your physician, smart devices have come a long way in making patients’ lives more convenient, especially seniors. While many believe seniors are untrusting of, or inept with technology, the Pew Research Center found that 82% of adults over 65 find that having technology, like smartphones, is liberating. Seniors are clearly showing a demand for smart technology, and long-term facilities should seize on this to make their facilities more effective.

In a recent survey, Telcare found that 64% of seniors also trust technology to help improve, treat or track fitness goals. Based on the survey we conducted, and my experience as a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator, here are a few ways to incorporate technology to help improve the lives of the seniors in your care.

Over 65? Still stay fit

Staying fit and exercising is not just for the young and is incredibly crucial in fighting the effects of aging in older adults. In fact, the loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is partly reduced by physical activity. Yet, by age 75, 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women engage in zero physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To solve this problem, use mobile health trackers to help motivate older adults into taking action.

Already, 39% of seniors trust advice from a health app. This presents the perfect opportunity for you to motivate seniors to execute on daily exercise routines. From gamification to social media sharing, technology makes exercising an event to enjoy, not a chore for many who feel they’re past their prime. These small lifestyle changes can engender great benefits, from helping reduce blood pressure to helping maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.

Track and treat chronic disease

As you know, seniors often suffer from chronic diseases. About 92 % of older adults have one chronic disease and 77% have at least two, according to the National Council on Aging. Fortunately, better management can ameliorate many chronic ailments. For instance, although nearly a quarter of adults over 60 suffer from diabetes, lifestyle intervention lowered the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the same age group by 71%.  

But one of the problems is that seniors cannot often keep track, or sometimes choose not to keep track of their chronic ailments, neglecting to monitor glucose levels or blood pressure. It’s a problem compounded as a person becomes affected by multiple chronic conditions that can become barriers to self-monitoring and reporting. This is where smart and wearable technology comes in handy. From helping track medication intake to opening direct channels of communication between patient and doctor outside the office, new technology can be a huge benefit for people dealing with the trials that come with daily management of a chronic condition. Imagine sharing health information as easily as you do emails, text messages or app notifications. And (according to Telcare’s survey) older adults are open to it, as 78% of seniors trust technology to help improve, treat or track diet or chronic disease.

Introducing health tech to older adults

Though many seniors have demonstrated they are amenable to the health benefits new technology could provide, it is best to introduce them through their physicians. No one likes being told what to do, especially when the role of caretaker is being reversed. Instead, have physicians introduce and incorporate new technology and data use. Seniors already think it would be best if they do, as 59% of seniors note that it’s important that their doctors incorporate technology into health plans or treatment and 87% believe real-time data would be useful to share with doctors when suffering from chronic diseases. It also allows for accountability by helping to avoid policing, even if family members are not directly involved in the health management process.

Ultimately, new health technology is easily accessible and offers transparency with a patient’s caring community. Once adopted, the health benefits speak for themselves. Long term care management is simplified by reducing medical and family touch points, and older adults are granted the opportunity to care for themselves. More broadly, it provides a great learning opportunity for both patients and medical staff as previously unrecorded data becomes easily accessible.

Kelly Lee Hardin is the clinical services manager in patient engagement at Telcare Corporation.