For many seniors, especially for those who are confined to nursing homes,staying mentally and physically active often depends on the emotional support they receive from friends and family. Certainly research has demonstrated the that older adults with strong social networks often enjoy greater life expectancy, overall good health, and better cognitive functioning than seniors who are socially isolated. If anything, this is a trend that seems to have grown even worse in an era of online digital communication that many older people feeling left behind.
While a recent Swiss survey shows that Internet use in adults aged 65 years or older has risen 47 percent from 2009 to 2014, 44 percent of older adults still don't have Internet access, whether due to the expense involved or difficulty learning to use the different technologies involved. The problem is even worse for seniors with visual or cognitive impairments that prevent them from going online without assistance from helpful family members or nursing staff.
But a new innovation developed by a team of researchers led by Francesco Carrino of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland may provide the answer. In a recent research note published in the journal GeroPsych describes this system and recent case studies showing how well it works. Known as the Tangible Interactive Window (or, simply The Window for short), older adults are able to establish permanent contact with distant relatives without many of the technical difficulties they would usually face. With the Window, all of the technology required to go online is kept hidden by making it resemble an actual window. Users can even activate the system using special controls that resemble the kind of hand crank or glass pane found in a real window.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.