Exploring the Landscape of Senior Health Technology Attitudes

Author: Carles Tersa Miralles (carles.tersa@udl.cat), IRBLleida

In understanding the senior population’s interactions with technology, we conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with the participants evaluated in the NextPerception pilot on integral vitality monitoring aimed at detecting mild cognitive decline in elderly persons. These insightful conversations unearthed invaluable information about their experiences, particularly in healthcare. These interviews took place after an intervention where participants engaged in daily tasks within a living lab that was reproducing a house environment, with various sensor technologies for health monitoring put to the test.

In this blog post, we remark on three distinct sections, each unravelling a unique facet of our findings and shedding light on the attitudes and expectations of our senior participants.

Living with Technology: Attitudes of the Senior Participants

Expectations about the use of technology in their daily life were as diverse as the individuals themselves. Many participants expressed a desire for technology to be user-friendly, allowing them to integrate health monitoring into their daily routines. As individuals with a lifetime of experiences, they emphasised the importance of devices that don’t disrupt their established lifestyles.

Privacy emerged as a critical concern. Participants displayed an intriguing blend of caution and openness towards technology’s role in their homes. While some were apprehensive about potential invasions of privacy, many acknowledged the potential benefits of health monitoring devices, even accepting the presence of cameras for enhanced safety.

These are some remarkable cites from the interviews:

“I would need someone to teach me well in order to have confidence. If someone keeps track of me, as long as it stays within the healthcare circle, it’s fine. In the end, we don’t do anything out of the ordinary at home.”

“These are things that become part of daily life and any help is welcome. The concept of privacy is archaic. What privacy do we have? We are recorded on the streets, we are recorded by Facebook. Having cameras wouldn’t be a problem, on the contrary.”

Usability of Health Technology in the Prevention and Information Management

The concept of using technology for preventive health care resonated differently among participants. While some recognised sensors as guardians of early detection and intervention, others perceived them as solutions for immediate needs. This diversity highlights the multifaceted nature of health technology’s impact on daily lives.

“If the person is not autonomous, it can be positive. It could also be useful as a preventive measure, but it is harder to accept that we might need these type of technology for monitor our health.”

“For people who live alone… I think it would be good if everything possible could be done for individuals who live alone and have relatively serious health conditions, so that in a specific moment there could be an emergency system in place to provide assistance.”

Health information management emerged as a point of discussion, with varying preferences for access and control. Some participants expressed a desire for personal ownership of their health data, while others leaned towards healthcare professionals as trusted interpreters of the information. Striking the right balance between empowerment and expertise emerges as a critical consideration.

“I want to know it by myself, not my family, and I want to know what situation I am in. It is part of my privacy, and I am the owner of my own person and my own mind. I decide what I want to know and what I want to do.”

“If I were able to interpret or have access to the information, I would be interested, but if I’m not supposed to understand it, then no.”

Future with Health Technology: Balancing Optimism and Uncertainty

We also questioned the participants if they think this technology will be implemented in the houses in the short term, and optimism radiates through their viewpoints, fueled by the belief in technology’s rapid evolution. Drawing parallels with existing security technologies, participants envision a future where health technology seamlessly integrates into daily life, enhancing well-being.

“I believe that it will be implemented soon because these things are already being used for security purposes. So why not use them for healthcare as well?”

Yet, underlying this optimism lies a current of uncertainty. Will these technologies meet their expectations? This question persists, emphasising the need for ongoing education and awareness programs. Participants emphasised the importance of understanding the potential benefits and limitations, ensuring individuals can make informed decisions.

“What we would need is someone who could make us understand and, above all, establish contact, not just having the devices here and that’s it.”

Conclusion:┬áThis immersive exploration of senior participants’ attitudes towards health technology, ranging from integrating technology into daily lives to the delicate balance between privacy and benefits, provides a profound lens through which we can understand and meet the needs of our senior population. Due to these revelations, we are empowered to keep investigating in a new era of patient-centred technology, refining our approach to align with their expectations and aspirations.