Posted on Jan 09, 2024, 12 p.m.
The world’s population is aging rapidly. By 2030, the World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 6 people will be over the age of 60. The over-60 population is also expected to double in the next 30 years as access to healthcare improves.
The rapid rise in average age is a sign that our healthcare systems are working. However, an older population will present serious challenges for providers and patients alike.
In particular, providers will need to address issues related to digital literacy. Bridging the digital literacy gap requires a collaborative effort on all fronts. This will ensure patients can access high-quality care from home and will maximize operational efficiency for healthcare providers who choose to go digital when serving seniors.
Benefits of Technology for Older Adults
Technology isn’t just for entertainment. Technology can improve retiree’s lives and help them regain control over their healthcare treatment. Seniors needn’t feel intimidated by technology either as most apps come with easy-to-follow guides. Older adults can also use technology to improve their healthcare outcomes by:
- Medicare Benefits: Many seniors are confused about the benefits they receive. In the US, seniors can use the Medicare What’s Covered app to ensure they are working with in-network providers and avoid costly fees.
- Comparison Shop: Seniors who live in countries without public healthcare can spend thousands on treatment. As such, shopping for the best deal online is crucial. Finding the right plan can save money and ensure that seniors receive the care they need.
- Telehealth: Sometimes, seniors do not need to travel to see a doctor. Instead, they can use laptops, tablets, or phones to connect with a healthcare professional remotely.
- Reminders and Assistance: Some seniors have a confusing regimen of medication and appointments. Voice assistants can help folks stay on top of their healthcare needs by providing timely reminders.
Seniors have much to gain from embracing technology. Even simple changes, like using a smartphone to call a doctor, can save hours of travel, reduce the co-pay fees, and free up time for activities that promote healthy, happy living.
Using technology correctly can improve seniors' healthcare literacy, too. While “Dr. Google” isn’t always accurate, sometimes a search online can alleviate fears and help folks understand their treatment plan. E-health tools can be particularly beneficial for seniors who live in remote areas and cannot travel to see a doctor but still want to take control of their medical situation.
Senior Healthcare and Wearables
Folks from all age groups are turning to smartwatches and wearables to better monitor their health. Investing in wearables makes sense for seniors, too. Wearables can improve seniors' longevity as watches like Fitbit, Garmin, Samsung, and Apple have all launched devices designed to track health and promote healthier, more active lifestyles.
Empowering seniors with wearable watches is crucial as digital technology is changing the healthcare industry at a rapid rate. Folks who use wearables connected to a provider's IoT may even benefit from better access to care as they can send their health data to their doctor remotely. This enhances the patient experience by facilitating patient-provider collaboration and lowers the cost of care.
Seniors who lean on high-tech wearables can boost public health research, too. This is crucial as the population ages. Automatically sending data to researchers ensures that AI programs
have deep, valid data sets to work with and will help policymakers model potential improvements to healthcare systems.
How to Build Digital Literacy
Building strong digital literacy skills amongst older folks can be tough. Recent Pew Research shows that only four in 10 seniors have a smartphone and 49% do not have home broadband. This presents serious challenges, as folks need their own devices and regular access to the internet if they are to gain the skills necessary to bridge the digital gap.
Fortunately, the same research shows that technology adoption is on the rise amongst older folks. Providers and educators can bridge the gap and boost digital literacy by encouraging older patients to set aside time for practice. During this time, seniors should learn about media literacy to reduce the risk of folks falling foul of scams and healthcare misinformation.
When developing digital literacy, patients and providers must remain patient. Older adults do have the ability to learn but may need a little more time than others. Rather than seeing mistakes and missteps as a waste of time, try to see them as an investment in independent living that will pay dividends in the future. Over time, seniors will become more competent with technology and learn the skills they need to connect with providers, stay safe on the web, and manage their own healthcare data.
Bridging the digital literacy gap can improve senior healthcare and help them live happier, more independent lives. This is crucial, as an aging population is sure to require bespoke care that can be optimized with technology like wearable healthcare trackers. This can usher in a new era of healthcare that prioritizes patient engagement and helps seniors retain a sense of control as they approach later life.
This article was written for WHN by Charlie Fletcher who is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and her search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on Contently.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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