Social Media and Eldercare: "I've Fallen, and the Post Is Up!"
With more seniors jumping (or gradually wading) into social media, European researchers are figuring out how to use social networks and mobile devices to improve outcomes for elderly people who have accidents in the home by spreading alerts to friends and family.
The new system may actually able to prevent elderly people from taking a tumble in the first place. The research team at the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology is designing a system with sensors attached to a belt which can detect when the wearer feels faint or is suffering weakness. The sensor can then alert the user to sit or lie down and rest before an accident actually occurs.
For post-accident recovery, the researchers are working on a system combining the sensors, mobile devices and social media to automatically post alerts that an elderly person has fallen to members of their online social network, thus reducing the amount of time before help arrives.
Research team member Babak Farshchian explained in an interview: “It's easy to get the impression that Facebook is just for fun and recreational activities such as sharing photos and chatting about music, but we are only in the early stages of the use of this medium. Connecting the alarm to social media will enable potential assistance to be expanded into a ‘team’ in which not only the municipal services, but also children and nearest neighbors can play a part.”
According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 53% of adults ages 65+ are using the Internet, with 34% of these using social media sites like Facebook (18% on a daily basis). Meanwhile 69% of adults ages 65+ own a mobile device, according to Pew.