Elderly people are having to face the worst consequences of COVID19, where they are more likely of catching the virus and reinstating certain underlying health conditions. In order to avoid older people from falling sick, the government has asked them to restrict going out and stay confined in their homes. While these measures are being taken in order to prevent the elderly from risking their lives, the decision has more or less added to the isolation factor of older people who already suffer from social isolation.
Social isolation and a feeling of loneliness are common among elderly people and they are both significant risk factors for negative health outcomes. In a scenario where physical contact with people has been limited, the ways to help older people cope with their loneliness and social isolation is to take care of their digital and information services. When it comes to addressing elderly people’s needs, there are basically two points to consider: health needs and social needs. Let’s take a look at how can we address these two needs through the use of technology.
The Healthcare sector is one of the few informative-based businesses where a tiny piece of information can be of major consequence. Elderly people, especially, need a robust informatics solution that helps them to not only keep the virus at bay but also manage their other health issues. Moreover, there also needs to be government-organized campaigns and volunteer works where people from different parts of the country are familiarised with effective informatics solutions.
Social media can come in handy in spreading health-related information digitally. It will help people stay up to date with the current scenario in terms of healthcare. Nevertheless, when information is spread through social media, the need to curb the spread of misinformation also arises, especially in situations where a pandemic is at large.
In order to be effective digital healthcare and information need to cater to the linguistic and literacy abilities of older adults, including the ones with disabilities. A few ways that digital healthcare and information can be effective are as follow:
Creating an informatics tool that helps local organizations to understand the needs of the people and create digital content around those needs. Moreover, there is also a need to employ strategies to circulate information for older people.
Develop a tool that helps family members and caregivers in providing their best support for the needy elderly people by providing them with up to date health information.
Train older people to be familiar with digital tools to improve their eHealth literacy.
Create tools that can be operated using basic household technologies such as telephone and can be accessed with low to average internet availability.
Allow older adults or their caregivers to access their electronic medical records from different providers on a single platform.
Social interactions are at the core of our humanity. Not being able to interact with other people, connect, or establish conversations with each other makes us socially outcast. During these times of COVID19, when social distancing is being enforced, it is the need of the hour to establish informatics solutions that encourage social distancing but sustain sociability. For older adults, all informatic solutions should have a social aspect as one of their primary considerations. Some of the ways we can attain to the elderly’s social needs include:
Develop or incorporate specialized voice assistant tools in smartphones that can help older adults connect with their friends and family.
Encourage virtual gathering spaces for elderly people to meet and connect with their friends from eldercare facilities. While during the pre-pandemic era, such measures were deemed inferior in comparison to a face-to-face meeting, now that social distancing is in order, virtual spaces aimed at older adults could be a blessing for the elderly.
Develop tools that allow the elderly to be able to be productive and contribute to society. For instance, enabling elderly people to participate virtually in volunteering and community engagement would help them feel included and positive about their lives.