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mHealth Myths and Reality part 3

I’d like to continue my series on ‘mHealth Myths and Realities’ by looking at one of the biggest myths of all – the myth that ‘old people can’t do it’.  This one really upsets me, because in effect it’s depriving a whole generation of access to some really useful tools to help them monitor their health and live independently. 

Here’s the sort of stereotypical comment that sums up this myth: “Oh my mother is 76 and she’s never touched a mobile phone, she can’t even operate a computer/TV/microwave so there’s no way this technology would be useful to her” (and therefore by implication it cannot help any person of the older generation) 

Wow. By law, we’re no longer allowed to discriminate against older people in the workplace but when it comes to home life we still love to write them off don’t we?  We seem to conveniently ignore the massive growth in usage of technology by the older generation:

       Over 65s usage of the internet has been growing much faster than other age groups

       Mobile phone ownership in this age group is fast catching up with other age groups 

But perhaps more important is that this ignorant assumption runs counter to independent studies and all of my own experience.  As a sample, look at this study where arthritis patients (were asked to compare paper collection of data with a handheld device, concluding In general, patients preferred the electronic version over the paper, and this was true for the older as well as the younger patients.”

elderly people

mHealth for all

 

 And in my work at Vodafone, where we were often working with senior patients as the users of the services, we found these patients to be careful and considered users, who would take the time to read instructions and ask if they didn’t understand.  If anything, it was teenagers who were harder to retain as they did get bored quickly and needed a lot of engagement designed in.  In one very interesting project we asked a group of seniors what their attitude would be to some assistive technology in the home – at first they were sceptical, as they had been conditioned to think that this wasn’t for them – “I can’t use a computer although my granddaughter has offered to help me”.   Then we showed them a modified tablet with a simple 6 button screen to access which became a digital photo frame when not in use. The immediate reaction was “It feels friendly…I’ve only got to touch things…I would definitely have one of those” – and in fact during the project they had no issues using the technology.

 So the reality – it all comes back to good mHealth design, as I’ve said in previous blogs.  Make sure the technology is easy to use and designed around the needs of the users and it won’t be an issue.  But please can we get away from this ridiculous and dangerous assumption that ‘mHealth isn’t for old people’?  The only people it can’t help are the deceased – and we’re working on that. 

As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts below or contact me.

3 Comments
  1. Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I’m hoping you write again soon!

  2. Thanks for the kind comments – please do come back regularly I update the blog weekly.

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