Senior Australians (those over 65 years of age) are utilising technology more than ever before. In 2016 Accenture conducted a report into the adoption rate of technology within this cohort and clearly demonstrates that, far from being left behind, the 65+ age group is increasingly turning to technology to help improve their lives. Smartphone ownership is set to reach 65% by 2020, over 85% already access the internet every day, with 47% regularly using social media to communicate and connect with family and friends.
Whilst these figures are certainly encouraging, in other areas, technology adoption rates are not so positive. Developments in assistive technology, especially in the aged care space, can yield significant improvements to the way the elderly age, making it possible for them to live independently longer, more safely and in better health than ever before.
“Ageing-in-place” technologies, such as the MimoCare system, a motion sensor based, home monitoring system, can provide peace of mind to seniors and their families when they wish to retire at home. The discretely placed sensors record activity levels during the day, proactively alerting family and carers should anything out of the ordinary be detected. Low-cost, unobtrusive and user-friendly, these types of technologies give older people and their families the confidence and security to stay in their own homes for longer.
The success of ageing-in-place technology, however, depends on adoption from the end user. Implementation and adoption remain modest, despite high rates of adoption of other areas. As with other technology-based services, such as telehealth systems, there are several interconnected barriers to be overcome before seniors will feel more comfortable in getting on board.
A study conducted in 2013 by the Telemedicine Journal and E-Health#, conducted research into the low adoption rates of telemedicine systems across the United States. The research examined the theories behind user’s intention to adopt technology, predominantly what has been termed “The unified theory of acceptance and use of technology” model by Venkatesh et al.
This model proposes that consumers assess 4 key areas when deciding on technology adoption, including:
a. Perceived usefulness (the benefits they will receive from the technology),
b. Effort expectancy (the degree of ease of use),
c. Social influence (the degree to which a consumer believes others are adopting a system),
d. Facilitating conditions (The degree to which the consumer believes the infrastructure exists to support them in using the system.)
In the context of older users’ acceptance, there are an additional four criteria – computer anxiety, perceived security, self-efficacy, and doctor’s opinion.
Many older users may carry a degree of negativity or even fear toward the use of technology, with “computer anxiety” being the most important consideration in their intent to use technology. Coupled with concerns about whether they will be able to perform a function, (computer self-efficacy) computer use has proved to be an important influence on attitude and intention to adopt new technologies.
Perceived security concerns, mainly about privacy, is the top critical concern to older adults. Many modern retirees, especially those without major health concerns, can be fiercely independent and the prospect of being monitored can be offputting. Indeed, for many aged care facilities and families keen to install monitoring systems to increase peace of mind and duty of care, convincing the elderly person that they will be able to maintain a high degree of privacy, may be the biggest hurdle to overcome.
In addition, seniors may fear the idea of someone else having sensitive information about themselves and potentially taking away their ability to make decisions on their future care. They may also fear the risks of having information stored in the cloud that could be accessed by people other than care providers and family members.
So how do you address and overcome these barriers and drive the acceptance of technology-based systems in aged care? In many instances, education will be key. Consumers will want to be sold on the benefits that adoption of the new technology will provide them – greater independence, great flexibility and increased health and wellbeing levels. They want to be reassured that the system will be easy to adopt – easy installation, minimal user input requirements and 24/7 support should something go wrong.
But most importantly, consumers need to be reassured about their concerns surrounding their privacy. Many concerns are driven by a perceived loss of dignity and independence that monitoring may bring. A lack of understanding of cloud-based technologies may lead seniors to worry about how safe their information will be online, especially in regards to their information being hacked. Providing clear, easy to digest messages addressing these concerns is key, utilising channels that most resonate with the way seniors digest information – such as visual demonstrations, communication videos and peer recommendations.
It is obvious that, far from being adverse to technology adoption, the over 65s cohort is increasingly turning to technology to achieve a higher quality of life. What is apparent, however, is that whilst younger generations are quick to accept and adopt new innovations, more in-depth and considered communications are vital in driving the growth of technology-based systems in the aged care arena.
2. Venkatesh V. Morris MG. Davis GB. Davis FD. “User acceptance of information technology: Toward a unified view.” MIS Q. 2003;27:425–78. [Ref list]
3. Roy Morgan research via AMCA report – “Digital Lives of Older Australians 2106”