Experience is a degree (II)

April 16, 2014

Defending the value of experience and the need for all-encompassing social inclusion, we recently published an article in an effort to recognize the importance of our seniors in the development of our society. Without repeating all the pros, both those on a personal and a wider societal level, we believe it is vital that these benefits are shared for the better functioning of society as a whole, including those generally unaffected areas, such as the economy. 

In the development of this perspective, it became apparent that different actions are required to achieve the full inclusion of seniors in everyday life (these will be discussed further in a forthcoming post). Today, this has much to do with closing the digital divide, but is also related to a much more profound and enduring element: our own views.

Serious comments along the lines of “the elderly are using up all the resources we generate”, or even jokes about pensioners watching the activity on building sites,  encourage a way of viewing our seniors that does not correspond with reality and leave an impression over time. Whilst we do not believe this is the majority opinion, it is damaging all the same. Therefore, it is necessary to break down these myths about old-age and, above all, give a voice to those who have much to say, yet are so often muted.

An effective way to fight these views, which attack social values, is to break down stereotypes. Here, we are not just talking about certain language or myths, which are easier to topple with more positive references or simple reasoning. The underlying problem is that there are more vulgar stereotypes that are often referred to in banter, but which, nonetheless, make a mockery of the elderly and, in the worst case, affect how we see this sector of the population. Thus, beyond the jokes, we reach more serious scenarios, such as a healthcare system that does not have the means to detect the symptoms of dementia in patients under the age of 65, because they associate this condition with older patients, as explained in this interesting document.

It is not obsession, it is conviction. Therefore, far from limiting ourselves to the (important) task of diffusing this message, we take action on a daily basis, seeking to improve our platform, which is destined to better seniors’ quality of life from a health point of view, but without forgetting the important role of leisure, communication and social participation. However, it is the responsibility of everyone, which is why we will soon show some examples which set us on the right path to a society which recognizes that “experience really is a degree”.

Javier Garcia

Patient empowerment for more efficient healthcare

March 31, 2014

Faced with rising populations and increasing life expectancy, various governments throughout Europe are growing concerned about the future of healthcare; both in terms of its quality and the allocation of resources. In order to tackle the problem before it is too late, they are carrying out various pilot studies or operational changes designed to streamline the system without affecting its quality, and even improving it significantly.

One of the resources becoming more common is the use of new technologies and telecommunications in healthcare processes, from prevention to follow up, actual medical intervention to the collection of useful data for the future. The system known as eHealth is spearheading an entire shift, putting greater emphasis than ever before on the patient, making them more involved in their own recovery, thus greatly improving treatment whilst saving both time and money.

The principal advantage of eHealth is the ability to maintain direct contact remotely between the different professionals involved in monitoring patients’ health, such as physicians and pharmacists, but also the patients themselves and their relatives or carers. Nonetheless, beyond this, its benefits include automatically filing incidences on medical histories, disseminating information relevant to the health of patients, and speeding up traditionally slow processes, to name but a few.

Over the last years, caring for one’s health has become more of a priority for people. Although health has always been a concern, in recent times we have generally adopted a more proactive attitude in this area. This has translated into a growing concern for nutrition or physical exercise as preventative measures, but has perhaps fallen short of tackling more specific health issues. Thus, mHealth is a step forward in this regard, empowering the patient to enhance prevention, speed up recovery and improve follow-up.

Patient empowerment is key to the three main scenarios described above and, when done correctly, can further customise treatments by tailoring them to the specific conditions of the patient’s life and improve the safety of proceedings. Moreover, thanks to technological advances, this improvement in services comes at no extra cost. However, it does require a specially adapted system, with technological tools based on communication, so that patients can access the necessary information, understand it correctly, and follow treatments autonomously to the greatest extent possible. Also, by being able to report any incidents appropriately, patient needs and opinions can be identified, allowing them to actively participate in the evolution and improvement of the health care system itself.

eHealth, patient empowerment and technological innovation are opening doors to excellence in the healthcare system, without compromising budgetary stability, nor the quality of service which guarantees people’s wellbeing.

Javier Garcia

The most popular Internet services among over 65-year-olds

March 20, 2014

The Internet is no longer an alien concept to our seniors, it isn’t even unknown territory. The Internet is increasingly becoming a means of communication and source of knowledge for people over the age of 65, who are beginning to use it more and more frequently.

The digital divide continues to close thanks to several factors such as improved online services in different areas, the retirement of professionals who used technology in the latter years of their working lives, the influence of youngsters who use the Internet intensively, or the work of different organisations determined to promote its use.

Data from the latest report from the Spanish National Statistics Institute on this subject reveals interesting Internet habits in people aged between 65 and 74 years. In the last three months of 2013, citizens within this age range used the Internet more than any other means of communication. Thus the data suggests the need to stay in touch with other people and the desire to know what is going on around them. Indeed, the use of email (82.8%), the latest news (66.8%), telephone calls (22.3%) and participation on social networking sites (28.5%), are illustrative of this point.

Communication has always been one of Kwido’s fundamental pillars. In fact, it was this very need of the elderly which became the driving force behind the project our platform has become today: to keep in touch with loved ones and care professionals via videoconferencing, messages, alerts, images, videos and audio files.

People aged between 65 and 74 years also value the availability of information on any subject at anytime and anywhere. Hence, 56.4% use the Internet to find information about health, 52.4% about products and services and 47,8% to search encyclopaedias or wikis. Nor should we overlook the importance of education, which is not exclusively an endeavour of the young. Indeed, 36.6% of seniors dedicate part of their time on the Internet to matters related to education and searching for courses, although only 3.3% actually do them online.

Among the many services available online, it is worth highlighting the extensive use of those related to tourism, accommodation and travel (51.8%), and Internet banking (39.8%). On the other hand, perhaps due to distrust, lack of knowledge or poor accessibility, there is a certain reluctance to engage in fundamental areas such as social and political participation online. Despite being on the rise in other segments of the population, these matters are simply not jelling among our seniors.

Much progress is being made, but the digital divide still exits, especially among the most elderly. As a result, they are denied the possibility of benefiting from the many uses technology can provide. Hence, this is our challenge: to bring technology to seniors, as a vehicle for wellbeing and independence.

Javier Garcia

Experience is a degree (I)

March 13, 2014

Both individually and at the level of society as a whole, experience is an important factor in continuous improvement. Without detracting from the importance of training and many other relevant issues for personal growth, business excellence and the development of society itself; experience is a key factor for progress.

Experience engages knowledge, strengthens skills and allows us to analyse threats and opportunities in perspective. In other words, experience is the true knowledge we acquire through many trials, errors and adjustments, which has the great advantage that it can be built collectively and shared between us.

Although not always strictly so, experience is usually greater the older we become, or the longer the road we have travelled through society. On occasions, though limited to a particular area, it connects to a whole. Hence, beyond the obvious question of social justice and inclusion, we would be foolish to forgo such valuable experience and, what is more, those who have accumulated it.

Leaving aside issues such as solidarity or justice, perhaps more ingrained in the debate about social participation of the elderly; we turn to a more selfish aspect of the matter: the pursuit of maximum individual welfare. In this sense, the objective may be pursued more vigorously by the only means possible: achieving maximum welfare in society as a whole.

Acknowledging the importance of experience inevitably means accepting the participation, knowledge, skills and worldliness of the elderly. Indeed, failure to do so adversely affects not only the greater society, but each of the members who composes it, creating a vicious circle within which we are the losers.

The life experience of the elderly, the judgement and learning accumulated over their lifetime, constitute important assets in the process of long-term decision making. Whilst this may imply important progress in society as a whole, even the  private sector can benefit from their participation. Professional experience, coupled with the impetus of the younger generation (who are increasingly more qualified), provides performance that companies are already beginning to take advantage of, fully aware of its value in an ever more competitive world.

Good ideas emerge from the colliding and connecting of different experiences. Hence, beyond the potential to make important decisions with solid foundations, or the ability to enhance business performance, we are talking about even more valuable issues. Indeed, we are referring to specific examples which improve the daily lives of our seniors; but above all, our future together: grandparents who care for grandchildren, volunteers who move forward with the work of NGOs, retirees who advise young entrepreneurs, companions who share their days with fellow elderly people who are alone, experienced professionals who teach their knowledge to students… A broad range of possibilities that should not be squandered, but developed.

Elderly people are often falsely accused of using up the resources generated by other adults, and whilst there will always be those who persist in this absurd injustice, the rest of us should focus on breaking down the myths and ensuring their full welfare, allowing them to feel just as they really are: useful. It is time we offered a more positive vision of those over the age of 65, people with a lifetime of experiences and with all their faculties. For these are people with much to offer and time to do it.

Javier Garcia

Serious games, the elderly and active ageing

March 5, 2014

Games, as well as being an important learning technique, have been a common educational tool throughout history, one also used in adulthood to retain certain faculties. With extensive developments occurring in the ICT field, this form of entertainment is undergoing an authentic revolution thanks to video games.

The typical educational uses of video games, both at school and for sophisticated professional training, can be employed to help maintain and even improve the faculties of the elderly in a fun way. Some common examples of their benefits worth highlighting include the collaboration between players, sociability, improved creativity, the stimulation of reflection, or the development of reasoning through observation, comparison and association.

Combining these advantages, the development of serious games could become a new ally in achieving elderly welfare. Indeed, a recent study carried out by the University of California in San Francisco noted improved cognitive control in the elderly arising directly from their use. The study produced other encouraging findings, including that the use of video games can increase neuronal and memory performance, as well as improve sustained attention span.

The data speaks for itself, even in preventing the loss of cognitive abilities. In the case of the “Road Tour” game, in which the action unfolds over a road trip, 681 healthy people over the age of 50 who played for 10 hours a week reduced their cognitive age by 3 years; and those who played for 14 hours, by 4 years. The effectiveness of these new methods far surpasses more traditional ones, improving players’ cognitive ages by 1.5 to 7 years, compared to those who just do crosswords, for example.

Moreover, although the benefits increase with the time played and continuity, the results become evident in the short-term. Thus, the necessary mental exercise involved in actively participating in serious games far outweighs the activity of other more usual forms of entertainment, such as watching television.

The development of serious games, with the help of therapists, psychologists and specialist  gerontologists, allows more useful cognitive rehabilitation therapies ; with an enormous range of possibilities: from simulators that improve peripheral vision or pastimes that numb the effects of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s; to video games that encourage exercise in a fun way by capturing movements, or even platforms to encourage personal relationships, thus favouring sociability.

Thanks to serious games for the elderly; learning, fun and health go hand in hand to promote active ageing, combining physical and mental well-being, social participation and independence.

Javier Garcia

The digital divide and social exclusion

March 3, 2014

We live in an increasingly connected world, in which more and more aspects of our social relationships are moving to the virtual sphere. It is no longer just about being able to stay in touch with friends or have conversations with relatives far away, or even about exercising the right to civic participation through new technologies. Indeed, operations which were previously impossible to do via a computer or mobile phone are progressively being transferred to such means irremediably. In some cases, this happens to the point that we can be penalised for not using them, as is the case of receiving invoices or paying for certain services.

This context, commonly assumed by most of society, isolates a significant part of the population, who are unintentionally denied access to new technologies. In particular, elderly people are often separated from the rest of society by the so-called digital divide, which prevents them from enjoying multiple advances that could, undoubtedly, improve their quality of life. What is more, they are at risk from being pushed out of a society that, given its education and habits, is advancing at an increasingly rapid rate.

Information and communication technologies are there to improve people’s quality of life from a social perspective, but also have much to offer in other aspects of our lives too, which is why we must make an effort to ensure they reach the whole of society. Therefore, Kwido is making new technologies available for elderly care, allowing their intuitive operation which requires no specific knowledge by older users, whilst facilitating the work of those in charge of their welfare, such as carers, geriatric professionals, doctors, or even family members.

With forecasts predicting that by 2050 the number of 65-year-olds will double those under the age of 15 in the European Union, making technological advances available to our elders is no longer just a question of intergenerational justice, but pure social and economic necessity. The relevance of this issue has driven projects like SEACW (Social Ecosystem for Antiaging, Capacitation and Well-being), which aims to achieve active and healthy ageing, as well as promoting the social extension of digital skills.

Ideable Solutions, in addition to developing the elderly care platform Kwido, is focusing its efforts on creating accessibility solutions for new technologies for the elderly and intellectually disabled, aiming for a future without digital divides and, consequently, more fair and equal. For though the Internet and smartphones already form a part of our everyday lives, this shouldn’t imply excluding the elderly from them.

Javier Garcia

New technology for the elderly care sector

February 20, 2014

When we discuss new technology for the elderly care sector on our blog, we frequently focus on the possibilities offered by telecare, telemedicine or telemonitoring systems, perhaps because of how important the development of the plataform ‘Kwido‘ is in our day-to-day activities. Whilst these developments already form part of the current elderly care sector and, without a doubt, will serve to guarantee its future, companies and care professionals have several more allies to choose from for this purpose.

Both the elderly and dependency care sectors face the challenge of a future with a growing aging population, coupled with more limited resources, meaning that efficiency will become imperative. What is more, with stiffer competition, it will become increasingly necessary to find innovative solutions to ensure people the maximum quality of life.

In this context, Ideable and Kwido also wish to support companies committed to the health and welfare of their clients, offering both web and mobile customized solutions, serving to improve internal management and client relations. At Kwido we are experts in technology and we also know the elderly care sector, which is why we are able to offer both visions in order to give the best service to these companies.

In recent times, prospective clients, both family and professionals, have started to use the Internet and new technologies intensively to search online for companies dedicated to the elderly care sector. Having a good website and an active presence on social networks has become an effective way to reach potential clients and impart information that might be of interest to them, thus strengthening brand image. Therefore, Kwido offers technological solutions for this purpose, including the development of carefully designed websites, well positioned on the web, with presence on social networks, and collaborating with our clients to develop a digital strategy specializing in the health and elderly care world, as well as its ongoing regeneration.

In today’s business world, only those who are creative and technologically up-to-date will survive. At Kwido we are committed to this very demand within the elderly care sector. Contact us to find out more.

Javier Garcia

Telecare and Advanced Telecare

February 13, 2014

Languages, like living organisms, evolve over time to adapt to the requirements of a society also in transformation. The rise of new technologies and the ever increasing contact between different languages generate new words so quickly that they burst into our vocabulary without warning, often creating a barely conscious use thereafter.

Despite being a word we are familiar with, one which we use regularly, we would like to focus on the meaning of the word telecare. Generally speaking, new innovations in the field of geriatrics, an area forming increasingly closer ties with the technological world, can lead to misunderstandings.

Telecare refers to an emergency care service, generally for elderly or dependent persons, which is able to warn of an abnormal situation for its user by means of a simple calling device. Normally, this will be a button carried by the user 24 hours a day, whether in the form of a pendant or wristband, allowing them to raise the alarm immediately if they are taken ill. By pressing the button, the user is put in contact with a specialist, to whom they can speak “hands-free” to explain the situation, and who also informs the emergency services.

Telecare is a fundamental tool in promoting personal independence among the elderly, allowing them to stay in familiar surroundings with a greater sense of security, supported by a rapid and professional response to any incident.

Developments in Information and Communication Technologies, as well as new electronic devices and progress in the field of geriatrics, have led to the creation of a new branch of these systems: advanced telecare. Its advantages and uses go beyond the preventative action of the so-called “panic button”, employing a broad range of software and devices to provide extra services. Thus, advanced telecare involves monitoring both the user’s surroundings and condition in order to gather all the necessary information to warn of any high risk situations, provide assistance in an emergency and help promote a healthy and independent lifestyle.

Within this definition, we also find useful resources such as smoke detectors, locking systems for windows, medication alerts, and continual direct contact by calling or via fall sensors; all through a single device that is capable of contacting the elderly user, their family members, caregivers and medical staff.

Yet Kwido goes beyond advanced telecare, with a care system via tablet which builds on these uses, allowing the customization of the device according to the specific needs of each user. Hence, in addition to routine monitoring of health parameters, videocalls, medication reminders or the ability to send personalized messages; it also takes the person’s cultural and social dimension into consideration, enabling them to use audio, video and image files, as well as using serious games to improve their cognitive ability and prevent other potential problems.

Javier Garcia

Kwido helps chronic patients follow their treatments

February 5, 2014

Chronic illnesses are characterized by being sustained over time and having a slow progression, being more frequent among (although not exclusive to) the elderly. For this basic reason, geriatric care must focus permanently on the chronically ill and their welfare, given that the simple fact of having to live with an illness indefinitely steadily diminishes their quality of life.

Generally speaking, there is room for improvement in chronic care, which should, therefore, explore different alternatives to allow as peaceful a life as possible for those affected. With 45% of the Spanish population enduring some form of chronic illness, resources allocated to prevent suffering should not only be tailored to individual needs to be effective in all cases, but also be as efficient as possible to avoid budgetary imbalances.

Thus, one of the main areas for improvement focuses on the progressive implementation of care in a familiar environmentproviding the means and the adequate professionals to this end, without losing sight of the goal of continuous care. Equally necessary is the use of systems and techniques to improve adherence to treatments, which are not always followed as they should be, whether due to a lack of understanding, forgetfulness related to medication or other complexities that may derive from the illness itself.

For these main issues, technology can contribute an alternative, ensuring the efficient use of available resources and improving the quality of services provided to users. In this regard, the elderly care platform via tablet, Kwido, incorporates resources to improve the lives of chronically ill patients and their caregivers, including:

  • Health monitoring from home.
  • Remote programming of health parameter alerts at home.
  • Management of medication reminders.
  • Checks and questions to ensure treatment is being followed correctly.
  • Video call service for direct contact and to solve any doubts.

In addition to the benefits of adherence to treatment itself, these applications enable the patient to receive care in their usual surroundings, allowing greater privacy for those who are more self-conscious about their illness, whilst reducing the likelihood of stress, which could affect treatment, and minimizing the costs of unnecessary travel. Moreover, beyond patient welfare, the applications also have a positive influence on the perceived quality of service thanks to customized care, which can be provided to more patients without increasing costs.

The gradual introduction of ICT innovations in both health and social care services brings us closer to truly comprehensive care for all, particularly the elderly and chronically ill.

Javier Garcia

mHealth, key to ensuring the sustainability of the healthcare system

January 30, 2014

The communication technology revolution of recent years continues to uncover new areas of application and working methods to improve efficiency and service quality in numerous professions. The health, dependency and elderly care sectors stand to benefit the most from this innovation, even more so at a time when the economic crisis and increasing life expectancy threaten to jeopardize them.

For some time we have seen ongoing developments in telecare and eHealth, which we are accustomed to discussing here, yet within the healthcare sector in which kwido actively participates, a new word has been gaining strength of late: mHealth.

mHealth stands for mobile health, that being the practice of medicine supported by mobile devices. It constitutes an emerging sector of eHealth, linked not only to the development of smartphones, but also to the latest MP3 players, tablets and new telemedicine systems.

The benefits of its use are numerous, both for patients in terms of empowerment, personal independence and improved adherence to pharmacological therapies; as well as for professionals in the healthcare sector, favouring efficiency, customized care and real-time information updates. Likewise, it allows families of the elderly or infirm to obtain information first hand through direct communication. In its entirety, it has the potential to improve the healthcare system by reducing waiting times thanks to the use of remote treatments, cutting costs by lowering hospital admissions and offering an individual service.

The remote health monitoring and medication management services offered by Kwido are a good example of using mobile devices as the perfect complement to telecare, home care and health services. This is especially true in cases of chronically ill patients, whose situation should not be made worse by unnecessary transfers to run tests, for preventative hospitalization, or due to a lack of real time data.

mHealth represents a new channel of communication between patients, caregivers, family members, doctors and pharmacists, in constant contact in order to offer the best possible service with the most efficient use of resources. Ultimately, it constitutes a participative form of innovation, in which all actors are able to contribute ideas for improvement and receive excellent service.

Javier Garcia