mHealth among Aging Population

As mentioned in our lecture this week, at least 87% of people around the world own a mobile device. This is an incredible platform to engage people in great numbers which can yield a high impact. A growing area of mHealth is targeting the aging population as there will be 1.5 billion people who are ages 65 and older by 2050 as referenced in a recent mHealth alliance report. This requires tremendous need for an increase in capacity to reach this growing aging population to ensure their health needs are met. mHealth can play a pivotal role in extending such reach.

An interesting mobile communication innovation I came across is called “Gerijoy” to help with elderly patients with Alzheimer.

Screen shot 2015-08-09 at 11.11.21 PM

My organization is testing out this mHealth technology with our seniors. It’s essentially an avatar (a cartoon pet) displayed on a mobile screen and the person controlling the avatar can be a trained medical clinician. The intention of the avatar is to provide daily interaction with the senior through conversations and cognitive stimulating activities. It has found that seniors are more receptive to speaking with an avatar instead of having a health worker come stop by which they find intrusive and uncomfortable. Furthermore, this allows greater access to the senior where they can be reminded to take medicine or eat and notes are taken frequently taken by the clinician behind the avatar and sends it to the senior’s physician for real time patient care.

Currently, it’s part of their customized tablet. It will be great if it can eventually be an app that can be downloaded on any touch screen device. Essentially, it will be a new challenge to develop mHealth solutions tailored to the aging population due to their lower exposure to technology, particularly low income seniors. However, the senior’s family, caregiver, physician all use mobile devices so it’s a great centralized access point to provide faster, better coordinated care between everyone.

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2 thoughts on “mHealth among Aging Population

  1. Wow, this is pretty awesome! Thanks for sharing! One concern that I have though, is that a large percent of the current elderly population is not too familiar with mobile devices. For instance, the first day I got my grandpa an iPhone, he was completely clueless about how to use it. It took some time to get him to understand how to use the phone, and teach him about the various functions. Do you know if the makers of Gerijoy have considered providing free training and tutorials to the potential users? This seems like a really great tool, I just hope everyone would be able to use it.

  2. Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for sharing some of your own personal experience with mHealth technology in your post! I find this quite fascinating! This is such a cool and innovative way to use mobile technology to cater to the needs of Alzheimer’s patients. I would never have imagined that elderly patients would prefer to receive advice and care from an avatar (rather than a live person). Then again, you know the saying, “Once a man, twice a child”…so I guess I can kind of understand why cartoon pets would appeal to the elderly. Also, considering that Alzheimer’s patients may go through phases of feeling antisocial or paranoid, it may be easier for them to feel relieved of the pressure of having to engage in social interaction with the healthcare staff. On the flip side, I wonder if not having the need to interact with people could push them further down the path of exhibiting these kind of antisocial behaviours and could exacerbate their declining abilities to interact with their family members. Anyways, I’m sure much research has gone into employing this kind of technology at your organization and I would be interested to know more about the cognitive assessments that have been done to evaluate its efficacy in this population.

    I also agree with Luda’s comments above that a a large percentage of the elderly population may not be as familiar with and comfortable using mobile devices. I wonder if your organization has done any environmental scans to determine what percentage of the target population your organization currently uses mobile technology.

    I’m not sure if this is at all possible but I would love to see a live demonstration of how the Gerijoys appear on the mobile screen and how clinicians are able to control them. Thanks for sharing such a great post!

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