Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS)

Role of digital health wearables in the wellbeing and quality of life of older people and carers

Role of digital health wearables in the wellbeing and quality of life of older people and carers

Professor Shailey Minocha, Dr Ana-Despina Tudor, Dr Duncan Banks, Dr Caroline Holland and Ms Catherine McNulty (OU), Mr Rohit Ail (Samsung UK), Mrs Jane Palmer (Age UK Milton Keynes) and Mrs Sue Bowering (Carers MK) –

The number of adults aged 65 and over has increased by 2% across Europe in the past 15 years, and in Northern Ireland by 22% between 2003-2013. The proportion of the population in this age group is projected to increase by 63% to just under 0.5 million by 2033 – which will be a quarter of the population in Northern Ireland. Given Northern Ireland’s Active Ageing Strategy (2015-2021), there is an increasing focus on encouraging physical activity as we get older to preserve mobility and motor skills, and to enjoy the benefits of living longer and to minimise health problems associated with ageing. Over the last two years, we have been investigating the role of wearable activity tracking technologies in self-monitoring of activity by people aged over 55. Example technologies include activity trackers from Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung, and smart watches. Typically, these devices record steps walked, sleep patterns, calories expended and heart rate.

Based on empirical investigations, this presentation describes the benefits of activity monitors for people aged over 55 for self-monitoring of physical activity, for adopting healthy lifestyles, and for increasing or maintaining physical activity as a way to avoid high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and other medical conditions associated with weight or lower physical activity. It outlines the role of activity trackers in post-operative monitoring of mobility during rehabilitation, in caring, and for possible use of the data for diagnosis and medical interventions. It then discusses the challenges for adoption of these technologies, given currently, off-the-shelf devices are designed and calibrated for use by physically fit (typically young active people) with unrealistic fitness targets for the older generation.

This seminar took place on 14 March 2018

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Policy Briefing
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