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The world is currently experiencing a demographic shift, and by 2050, one in every six individuals will be over the age of 65. While this phenomenon poses significant challenges, it also provides opportunities for innovation and progress. Digital technologies have the potential to enhance the quality of life of older individuals and promote healthy ageing, but it requires a collective effort to ensure that everyone has access to these advances.
At GetSetUp, we have observed firsthand how digital technologies can assist older adults in staying connected, acquiring new skills, and accessing essential services. Our platform offers a variety of online sessions tailored specifically to older individuals, ranging from technology tutorials to wellness sessions. We are committed to creating a more inclusive and accessible digital world for older persons, and we believe that digital technologies can help achieve this goal.
Digital Technologies and Social Connection
Social isolation and loneliness are significant issues facing older individuals, especially those who are homebound or living alone. However, digital technologies can help bridge the gap and provide opportunities for social connection. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram enable older adults to keep in touch with family and friends, share events and photos, and participate in online communities.
Also on the Forum Network: Reimagining a New Care Paradigm in the Era of Healthy Ageing by Jisella Dolan, Michael Hodin, and Francesca Colombo
OECD countries are fast approaching a future where there are more old than young; the systems and assumptions that have guided elder care will not continue to work. But this also presents an incredible opportunity: to reimagine long-term care.
Studies have revealed that social media use can have positive effects on well-being, including decreased feelings of loneliness and depression. The Pew Research Center found that older individuals who use social media are more likely to report higher levels of emotional support from their social networks.
Aside from social media, video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Google Meets can facilitate face-to-face communication with loved ones who are far away. These technologies are particularly valuable for older individuals who may have mobility or transportation restrictions. For example, a grandparent who lives across the country can participate in a virtual birthday party or attend a grandchild's school play.
Digital Technologies and Health
Healthy ageing is a complex issue, but digital technologies have the potential to support the physical and mental well-being of older individuals. Wearable devices like Fitbit and Apple Watch can monitor physical activity and provide feedback on exercise goals. These devices can motivate older adults to stay active and cultivate healthy habits.
Telemedicine is another promising area of digital health. Remote consultations and virtual check-ins with healthcare providers can reduce the need for in-person visits, which can be challenging for older adults with mobility issues. Telemedicine can also improve access to care in rural or underserved areas, where medical specialists may be scarce.
Offering tools and resources to older adults to help prevent or delay ageing ailments can help to save health plans, governments, and communities millions of dollars in post-care that can be avoided if proper precautions are taken.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that telemedicine can be just as effective as in-person visits in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. When medicine is combined with educational preventative care options such as exercise and health and wellness classes, older adults can be empowered to stay healthier as they age. Offering tools and resources to older adults to help prevent or delay ageing ailments can help to save health plans, governments, and communities millions of dollars in post-care that can be avoided if proper precautions are taken.
Digital Technologies and Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning is crucial for older individuals, as it promotes cognitive function and enhances quality of life. Digital technologies have opened up new opportunities for older individuals to pursue educational and intellectual interests.
Online courses, webinars, and virtual lectures offer access to a wide range of topics, from history and art to science and technology. Platforms like Coursera and edX offer free or low-cost online courses from top universities around the world.
In addition to traditional academic subjects, digital technologies can also support lifelong learning in practical skills. At GetSetUp, we provide classes on topics such as smartphone use and internet safety, which can empower older individuals to navigate the digital world with confidence.
Digital Technologies and Financial Inclusion
Access to financial services is crucial for older individuals who may be living on fixed incomes or facing economic difficulties. Digital technologies can increase financial inclusion and provide new avenues for saving and investing.
Mobile banking apps allow older adults to check account balances, transfer funds, and pay bills from their smartphones. These apps can provide more flexibility and convenience for older adults who may need help visiting physical bank branches.
The potential of digital technologies to improve the lives of older adults and promote healthy ageing is vast, but it requires a concerted effort to ensure that everyone can benefit from these advances. Governments, non-profit organisations, and the private sector all have a role to play in creating a more inclusive and accessible digital world for older persons.
It is important to acknowledge that not all older adults have the same access to digital technologies or the same level of digital literacy. Efforts must be made to bridge the digital divide and ensure that everyone can benefit from the opportunities provided by digital technologies.
It is our responsibility to ensure that everyone can benefit from these advances and create a more inclusive and accessible digital world for older persons.
Digital technologies have the power to transform the lives of older adults and promote healthy ageing. From social connection and lifelong learning to health and financial inclusion, digital technologies can provide new opportunities and enhance the quality of life. It is our responsibility to ensure that everyone can benefit from these advances and create a more inclusive and accessible digital world for older persons.
To learn more, check out also the OECD's work on Digital innovation and inclusiveness