How important are information and communication technologies in ageing: the example of the TEC-MED online platform
The increase of the aging population is requiring social health systems to promote healthy aging and strengthen the self-care capacity of older people. This implies innovative approaches to facilitate communication between the older person and health professionals, and to increase the older person's participation in their care and, consequently, avoid social isolation, one of the great threats of this population.
In this respect, there is bibliography on the relevance of information and communication technologies (ICT) to facilitate self-care among older people, their interaction with health professionals and interesting aspects for “empowerment” of this population.
COMMUNICATION, AGEING AND ICT
In elderly, social isolation is the result of reduced social interactions, particularly with family, friends, and community networks, caused by retirement, physical changes (cognitive and physical disabilities), inevitable loss of relatives or friends (reducing the size of the network) and / or living alone or in institutions1.
The increasing use of information and communication technologies and Internet-supported interventions have stimulated interest in electronic interventions for older people and specifically due to the role of increasing social media and decreasing loneliness. Although some studies show inconsistent and weak evidence on the use of electronic interventions for loneliness in older people and could even make people to isolate by hiding themselves behind the ICT tools, the contemporary information and communication technologies (ICT) have the potential to prevent or reduce social isolation of older people through various mechanisms. In short, they positively influence support and social connection.
The connection between technologies and health is also established by other researchers.They provide a clear indication of areas relevant to the health and self-care of older people that can be integrated into an interactive information and communication technology platform. Therefore, these areas could be used for regular evaluation and for the support and promotion of healthy aging, as well as strategies for effective communication. Every interview, for example, should take into account the following “areas to explore”:
• Relationships and social activities
• Physical capacity
Given that there are doubts about which aspects of information and communication technology (ICT) are preferred by older people living in long-term care facilities, in order to facilitate communication between the elderly and professionals who provide assistance, it is necessary to involve the elderly in the development and consensus of the content of these virtual platforms. It is also relevant to encourage the participation of the elderly by adapting the usability of these ICT tools, as the cognitive decline which comes with ageing could act as a barrier in their use. Recently, a study analyzed the impact of ICT communication, ICT entertainment, and conventional care on the health of older adults and post-intervention psychological change among older adults in care facilities. The results suggest that entertainment, instead of ICT communication (text, image, sound ...), is the most effective method of health promotion to improve the health and psychological well-being of older adults in care facilities.
TEC-MED AND THE ONLINE PLATFORM FOR ELDERLY
In this sense, TEC-MED project aims to develop an innovative and cost-effective socio-ethical care intervention framework which will improve and adapt social care policies tackling the phenomenon of the ageing population. A new organizational model will be designed to support cooperation and partnership between public institutions and social care actors.
In order to support the development, implementation and continuity of TEC-MED model, achieving the successful promotion of its objectives, a key point consist in building an online platform which provides all the needed ICT tools to assist the target population and all the key agents involved in such mission. So, the features of the online platform will be focused on helping and empowering the elderly dependant population, their caregivers and any other required agents.