Better mental and physical health for seniors comes in tablet form. Computer tablet, that is.
Seniors, their loved ones, caregivers, and physicians are finding that tablets can establish face-to-face communication with health providers without the physical demands of in-person visits.
They can also maintain and restore the social connections that are crucial for a person’s mental, and by association physical, well-being.
Couple those potential benefits with practical devices to monitor, regulate, and improve a person’s physical condition, and you create a single point of personal healthcare that can become the heart of an elderly American’s daily life.
The Shrinking Social Circle
Social ties are among the most accurate predictors of mental well-being among people aged 65 and older, the clinical line at which a person technically drifts over into the elderly category.
Those with few meaningful social associations are more likely to suffer mental health distress, which in turn makes them more likely to smoke, and less likely to take on physically beneficial activities such as eating a balanced diet and participating in even moderate physical activity.
Sadly, around 12% of elderly Americans feel they rarely or never receive the level of emotional and social support they need in their daily lives. Part of this social disconnect is brought about by the isolation and frustration due to the physical limitations of aging.
Which is why embracing the digital mobility video conferencing brings can become an elixir in later life.
Social Media for Improved Health
Research published last year in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication found that even static social media interactions–Facebook in this case–can have a positive influence on well-being.
But it’s got to be the right kind of social interaction. Simply reading about the activities of friends with whom one has only a weak social connection had little effect.
If the messages exchanged over social media were personalized, however, and came from good friends and family, then real improvements in well-being were possible.
Which leaves direct video calling from friends and relatives as a strong starting point for reinvigorating mood and health among the otherwise socially isolated. That knowledge has led makers of in-home healthcare products to include video calling in their integrated devices.
All-In-One Social and Healthcare for the Home
Medical alert system specialists MobileHelp used the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 conference in Las Vegas to show off their new all-in-one home health system.
The tablet-style arrangement operates over the 4G phone network and ties together an elderly person’s medical and social needs. It’s like a cross between the smartphone apps that link patients to doctors, and other tablet devices that specialize in simplified, always-on, one-touch video conferencing.
Through it, users can make video calls to friends, family, and their doctor; track their medication intake and set reminders to take their daily requirements; track their daily activity (when paired with wearable tech); access information on nutrition and exercise; monitor blood pressure, weight. and pulse, (again, when paired with existing wearable tech); and play educational games to stimulate their minds.
The base of the tablet’s loading station also has an emergency “fall” button that fills the same role as the company’s traditional medical alert technology. It’s a glimpse at how future social and medical hubs may one day become the center of an elderly person’s daily life–albeit with a few more features and some high-impact presentation.
A Social/Health Hub and Window to the World
If we got our hands on the MobileHelp system, the first thing we’d like to do is switch to a device that actually presents like a tablet or flat screen TV–MobileHelp’s unit looks more like an early model in-car GPS navigation system.
Imagine being greeted every morning by something as dynamic as an 84-inch, wall-mounted Surface Hub.
While waiting for the coffee to boil, you could be greeted with a few reminders about medications, given a verbal message saying your doctor would like to speak with you via direct video call at 10 am, and then be presented with some exercise routines and social video call options.
And we’d like to see group video chat functionality as well, so you can fill that wall of video with the faces of your nearest and dearest. The device could also be connected to the wider internet, so it could become a source of news and entertainment. Seniors could pull up a youtube video taking them through a gentle seated yoga routine, or search for side effects for medications, or even scroll through Facebook.
Together with the existing touchscreen video calling and wearable medical alert and biomedical tracker integration, you’d have a central device that encouraged medical self-management and a social life that wouldn’t leave seniors feeling left out.