The below article is referred from CORDIS - a Community Research and Development Information Service portal.
Keeping senior citizens connected
The onset of social isolation, or loneliness, among senior citizens is becoming a significant societal problem – one that leads to poor health and high social costs. According to a 2014 study commissioned by Age UK, 49 % of people age 65 and older cite television or pets as being their primary form of company. More so, of the 162 million senior citizens in Europe, nearly 65 million claim to be affected by loneliness. Because nearly 40 % of older adults are not online, they are unable to benefit from the social aspects of today’s digital technology. For those who are online, 80 % say they need someone to walk them through an application before they are able to understand it.
The EU-funded SENTAB project is tackling this problem head on by combining today’s digital technology with something familiar to most senior citizens: TV. The basic idea behind the project is to connect senior citizens with their family and friends by combining smartphones, tablets and PCs with TVs for easy-to-use video calling, cognitive games, community interaction, free content, newsfeeds and social media. ‘The next time you are on vacation, you can immediately start sharing your photos and videos with all the members of your family – regardless of age – by sending them direct to their SENTAB-enabled TV screen,’ says Project Coordinator Tarmo Pihl.
The SENTAB Index
But SENTAB is much more than just an entertainment and social platform. As the SentabTV box is exposed to a range of unique behavioural data on the user, it can also have a positive impact on the viewer’s health and wellbeing.
‘On top of its communication and media streaming functions, we added cognitive and social activity measurement tools capable of evaluating the status of and deviation from a user’s normal behavioural patterns,’ says Pihl. ‘We accomplished this through the Sentab Index, a built-in statistical monitoring and benchmarking algorithm, secure services infrastructure and front-end applications that capture the necessary data for such measurements through user engagement.’
Based around the three important pillars of wellbeing – physical, social and cognitive activities – the Index summarises each of these behavioural verticals. ‘These three attributes are aggregated into a separate index on a scale of 1 to 10 and is accompanied with relevant feedback for the user,’ explains Pihl. ‘The higher the Sentab Index, the higher the user’s overall wellbeing – information that can prove invaluable not only to the individual user, but to their family, friends and caretakers.’
In addition to the development of the SentabTV and Index, the project also made a number of important findings. For example, they found that 85 % of pilot users showed a significant increase in physical activity after being introduced to the SentabTV platform. ‘This clearly demonstrates how digital technologies can be used to encourage behavioural changes towards a more positive, independent lifestyle – even later in life,’ says Pihl.
Perhaps most importantly, about one if five users who suffered from extreme loneliness showed improvement above a critical level when using the platform. Users also saw their cognitive index increase from an average of 5.59 points to 6.07 points in just a few months after using the cognitive exercises offered through the SentabTV platform.
According to Pihl, these powerful results show how the concept behind the project can be replicated at a larger scale. ‘Although we will never be able to completely eradicate social isolation and loneliness, tailored digital technologies such as the SentabTV represent a huge step in helping society age with dignity,’ he concludes.
For more information on project deliverables, please consult the following links: