Whole Care+: An integrated health care for the elderly living in their homes
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The elderly experience their health getting significantly deteriorated as they age. They suffer not only from chronic diseases but from various geriatric diseases such as high blood pressure, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Their mental health also retreats creating challenges for the elderly from the loss of short term memory to dementia. Furthermore, after they retire, the elderly’s social network decreases as their social activities are inevitably limited to a small group of people like families and friends.
With the face of such impairments in their physical, mental and social health, many elderly cannot help but are being institutionalized or sent to specialized places like nursing homes, which provide them professional care. However, a study indicates that most Americans prefer to stay in their homes as they get older since they can maintain their social connections to neighbors and friends, be close to their medical caregivers in town as well as attain emotional comfort and security with familiar surrounding and environments. On top of that, Americans of all ages value on keeping their ability of independence and autonomy by controlling their lives in general.
Various health care-aid devices and services appear to offer specific support to health care activities for the elderly in their homes. However, such aids have more focused only on when the elderly’s health is degraded or on very specific areas such as tracking health data like blood pressure, blood sugar and calorie intakes.
The elderly need comprehensive understanding about their health problems, healthy daily habits and timely interactions with their families and caregivers, in order to keep independent living safely in their places. Smart Home technology has much potential to support the elderly’s independent living as well as interactions with others. To better understand this, we conducted a user-centered design project which looks at the management of the elderly’s health enabled by Smart Home technology.