The digitalization of TEC-MED project: technology and telecare in pandemic times to support elderly and dependent people
The TEC-MED project includes technology as an important dimension in its care model. Moreover, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the TEC-MED project strengthens its digitalization and the online platform to reinforce support to elderly and dependent people. Through this online platform, users will see their personal development, they will do training and activities, and will be in contact with the health services and professionals.
Either for educational, entertainment, or working purposes, society has been forced to adapt many daily activities to the use of electronic devices and screens due to the lockdowns and stay-at-home measures.
But it has not been an equal adaptation. Although for many it has been a way of solving obstacles, for those who were already affected by the digital divide it has meant additional problems and a setback in their capacities. Older adults, especially in a situation of frailty or pre-frailty, may suffer from cognitive decline, hearing impairment, vision loss, and motor weakening, all of which make it very difficult or even impossible for them to use the applications and devices intended to cope with the current world situation. Most of the current systems have accessibility tools, such as shortcuts, direct functionality keys, or text-to-speech options, but even these features require training or a previous configuration. The TEC-MED project thought of that issue. For that purpose, the TEC-MED project is elaborating a digital platform that has all the accessibility tools and, moreover, is created taking into consideration caregivers or family members, and elderly with dependence or social exclusion. This online platform will be available in the next months.
A special case worth emphasizing is that of care. Self-isolation entails a drastic decrease in both physical activity and social interaction, causing a risk of emotional, biological, and psychological worsening. For this reason, it is necessary to provide the elderly with ways to not only maintain the regular monitoring of their health that was carried out before the pandemic but also to alleviate the additional pressure. This need is met with the drawbacks mentioned for technology in general plus some additional ones, since a significant proportion of people in this age group do not have access to the proper computer equipment and/or an Internet connection of the level necessary to hold teleconferences of the appropriate quality, in many cases lacking these resources completely. For that reason, the TEC-MED project will do online and presential interventions with the elderly, trying to adapt the model to the elderly situation.
Professionals, on the other side, also have to face new problems in order to attend to the elderly, which has a direct impact on the quality of the service provided. Without the possibility of being with people in person, some medical scenarios demand delegating the check-up instructions to the users themselves, which implies that the former is capable of transmitting them correctly and that the latter can interpret and execute them appropriately, always within the limitations that the computer equipment at their hand allows. The TEC-MED model believes that is very important the training caregivers because they must handle different hard situations and they need to be ready.
TEC-MED project lays the first stone on the way of technology accessibility for elderly
Practically all of these problems are based on the principle that these tools are not designed in the first place for this group that now depends on them. The main cause is the generational leap since the now older population did never need them on a personal or professional level along with their life, and when it wasn't so they have been able to turn to someone to get them out of trouble. As time goes by and generations more in symbiosis with this type of technology reach this stage of aging, technical advances will undoubtedly evolve and be adapted along with them, but earth-shattering changes such as the COVID-19 pandemic make us rethink that we should take into account the elderly already. The TEC-MED project wants to lay the first stone on that way of technology development.