Building on the knowledges gained through engagements with people aged 50+ and health professionals, a presentation of findings and design considerations was given to the Sensors for health and wellbeing project partners and other interested parties from the health, public, and 3rd sectors. This initial conclusion to the project sought to gain feedback prior to publishing the final report (to be published here shortly).
Through our engagements with persons aged 50+ living in single occupancy residences and the health care professionals who work with them (or people of the same cohort) a number of findings were uncovered that helped to reimagine future health and wellbeing sensor technologies. While the final report contains a fuller account examples of some of the implications for design are in the following:
- Measuring the person
As described during interview with people aged 50+, good mental health was often seen as important as physical health. Similarly, how participants ‘felt’ was often used as a cornerstone of their evaluation of their health. The significance of mental health and sociality was reflected in interviews with health professionals who recognised its impact in both physical illness and recovery, and as indicators or warning signs of decline in health. However, those with poor mobility and limited social interactions expressed a longing for sociality and challenges to maintain a positive mental state.
- Subjective wellbeing and self-evaluation
While an individual’s sociality and mental health/subjective wellbeing are evidently significant indicators and aspects of broader health decline/recovery and wellbeing, there remains a challenge in assessment. Assessment of subjective wellbeing often occurs at sparse “snap shots” following a significant medical event or yearly medical check-ups.
Future sensors for health and wellbeing might better evaluate individual’s subjective wellbeing through prompting questions that facilitate self-reporting combined with metrics on their mobility in their own home. This would allow for a qualitative metric of individuals activity in a formalised structure allowing health professionals to quick assess changes and decline in individuals mental and physical health and better understand at what time and the rate this occurred. This might help inform formal health and wellbeing services evaluations, and social or 3rd sector groups to provide interventions and break the cycle of conditions worsening.
- Peer support for those without
One poignant source of fear and anxiety for those living on their own was a fatal or serious accident occurring and there being nobody outside of the home aware to respond. While technologies exist, such as pendant alarms, without a sufficient family or peer contacts to respond these were seen as inappropriate. Similarly, participants had commented on acquaintances who had such technologies though often forgot to wear them, rendering them useless when an accident occurs.
Current and future iterations of sensor technologies in the home might accommodate this through gauging activity passively and sending alerts to authorities when activity is low or not apparent for extended periods of time. However, future iterations might go further through providing peer checking, or “buddy” systems; where individuals can check and be checked up on by paired individuals. While this may not offer direct sociality, knowing that “someone” will notice should there be a serious event occur might offer peace of mind and sense of security.