People worldwide are living longer in greater numbers than ever before due to modern health innovations. Today most people can expect to live well into their sixties and beyond. By 2030, 1.4 billion people in the world will be aged 60 years or over. If these added years of life are filled with declines in physical and mental health, the opportunities for older people and for society will not be able to flourish. Older adults now have the potential to live longer and healthier and contribute more to their personal goals, local communities, and their families. But these opportunities for extended longevity are dependent on the health and wellbeing of the older population.
Supporting older adults’ health through digital tools
Supporting the growing ageing population is a huge challenge for countries around the world and health professionals will be in need of resources to support the needs of older adults. Technology has the potential to help fill this gap and to reach the ageing population at a larger scale than ever before.
Ageing looks different for every individual, and personalised online health tools are the future of supporting healthy ageing. With the growing industry of health technology, it is vital to create accessibility to the older adult population in those spaces, to listen to their specific needs, and to include them in the process of developing the right tools for them.
What do older adults say?
At Holly Health we ran a qualitative study with a group of thirty older adults aged 50-71 years old to gain insights about the obstacles older adults face through ageing, and their attitudes towards using technology.
Understanding the challenges older adults face
Our study found that the main obstacles older adults face to improving their health were physical health conditions (e.g. limited mobility), mental health challenges (e.g. anxiety and depression), and other obstacles we can all relate to such as lacking the motivation and energy to jump start their health journey.
Older adults’ attitudes towards technology to support health
Most older adults were open to the use of technology to support their health and most were previously familiar with some calorie counting/step-counting apps. They reported that they lost interest in those kinds of singular focus health apps and could not fully instil and maintain healthy habits through using them.
The survey participants emphasised their desire for a mobile health app that is engaging, easy to navigate, and for the app experience to feel highly personalised.
Older people are often stereotyped to be frail, unsociable, and technologically incompetent, but our research findings revealed that older adults have the desire to live healthier lives, are open to using technology for improving their health, and that they greatly value their social support systems!
Overcoming stereotypes of older adults by listening to what they actually need through qualitative research can lead to more effective and useful tools for healthy ageing.
The findings from this study revealed the openness of older adults to learn to navigate a health app catered to them, the desire to improve their health through activities that they enjoy, and the high value and importance of social support and socialisation with other older adults that can relate to their own challenges.
Technology will only continue to advance, as will the older population continue to increase for the next several decades. It is exciting to consider ways in which we can design an accessible and successful health app to support our older population for generations to come.
Written by Emily Young. Emily is graduating from her bachelors degree in Human Development at California State University Long Beach. Emily spent her final semester abroad in London and interned with Holly Health during that time.
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