Older Persons and Technology - the Changes That Are Here to Stay Even After the PandemicOctober 6, 20213 min read
COVID-19 is a threat to everyone but has shown to disproportionately impact older persons accounting for 90% of deathsi. Along with the high rates of mortality is the increase in social isolation experienced by older persons. While social distancing has become the norm, technology such as social networking sites and video chat, has helped people stay socially connected. However, there were also many older persons that are faced with challenges such as the learning curve associated with the use of these methods of connectivity or limited to no access to technology.
A recent article by the American Psychological Association discusses the ways in which psychologists are focusing on studying how older persons use these devices and the support they need to be able to access applications and make them more user friendly. These changes and focus can mean that technology will become even further accessible to individuals that previously faced challenges and will also close the digital divide. Even in a post-pandemic world, the increasingly digital world will continue evolving and as such ensuring that older persons have access to these resources should occur parallel to the continuous rise of technology.
While technology has been shown to mitigate the social isolation of the pandemic, it has also proved to be a barrier with the rise of telemedicine and the online booking of vaccine appointments for individuals that did not know how to use their computers, smart phones, and tablets. Closing the gap and making applications that are age-friendly will enable older persons to manage their health in ways that they were not possible before.
Social isolation has continuously been proven to pose serious public health risks in older persons leading to premature death, increased risk of dementia, poor social relationships, depression, anxiety, and suicide. As such, understanding the ways in which digital tools can empower individuals and keep them socially connected in post-pandemic times. Understanding how applications and technology can be improved for older persons is an important step towards empowering older persons to maintain their independence and fulfill their potential to dignity.
The United Nations Decade on Healthy Ageing calls on countries to ensure that older people can continue to participate and be an integral part of society. It is crucial to recognize the collective responsibility to ensure that older persons are not socially isolated, understand the barriers to access to technology, and increase access in order to improve health outcomes.
The IFA’s 15th Global Conference on Ageing entitled “Rights Matter” is a global point of connection that advocates for the rights of older persons against the backdrop of the pandemic. One of the conference sub-themes is ‘barriers and enablers’ which will touch on the importance of technology to empower older persons and close the digital divide.
To learn more about social isolation and the importance of enabling older persons through technology, connect with these experts:
Dr. Alex Mihailidis, Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto
Prof. Sue Gordon, Professor of Healthy Ageing, Flinders University
Emily A. Greenfield, Associate Professor of Social Work, Rutgers University
i Moore, R. C. & Hancock, T. H. (2020). “Older Adults, Social Technologies, and the Coronavirus Pandemic: Challenges, Strengths and Strategies for Support”. Social Media and Society, 1-5. Available at: https://bit.ly/3opZM8n.
Dr. Alex Mihailidis Associate Professor
Dr Mihailidis has been conducting research in the field of pervasive computing and intelligent systems in health for the past 15 years,
Prof. Sue Gordon Professor of Healthy Ageing
Sue works with aged care providers and the community to optimise ageing, aged care and uptake of technology
Emily A. Greenfield, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Social Work
Dr. Greenfield's research addresses how early life experiences matter for aging. She also studies age-friendly community change processes.