Teaching Older People the Power of Smart Connectivity
TSTT Corporate Communications
According to the United Nations, the number of older persons worldwide is expected to double in the next three decades, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050, most of whom live in low-and middle-income countries. An ageing population is a testament to humanity's progress in many fields that persons can now comfortably achieve a greater quantity of years of life. However, the realities of the pandemic mean that the quality of life of these older persons is severely affected as they are the most at-risk population and the most isolated in many instances.
The Department of Gerontology (the study of ageing) at the St James Medical Complex in Port of Spain recognises this reality in T&T and to underscore the importance of the International Day of Older Persons (#UNIDOP2021), collaborated with bmobile to honour this year's global theme of Digital Equity for All Ages. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), women and older persons experience digital inequity greater than other groups in society. Older persons may lack the technologies being taken up by modern society and may not have the skills required to use them to their fullest benefit. As many public medical clinics nationwide adopted telemedicine in the last eighteen months to stay in touch with this at-risk age group, understanding how to use a smart device has gone from an option to an absolute necessity.
On Friday 1st October 2021, the bmobile team offered insights to attendees of the Gerontology clinic into the differences between data and Wi-Fi connectivity and walked attendees through using the devices for not just reading and research on sites like Google and YouTube, but also how to effectively use smart devices for connectivity with loved ones too. A review of articles and studies across 20,000 persons globally revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic induced isolation, anxiety, poor sleep quality and physical inactivity in Older Persons. It also noted that these could be positively addressed using cognitive strategies and increasing physical activity levels using apps, online videos and tele-health, among other approaches.
Gerard Cooper, General Manager Shared Services, TSTT, reinforced the company’s commitment to help older persons embrace technology at this time. He noted that, "The reality is that for many of our older customers, the phone and perhaps tablet have become the main means for keeping in touch with children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers and friends too. Social distancing meant that while younger persons adapted somewhat easier, some older persons may have had a steeper learning curve to understand the technologies that the rest of us take for granted. As one of the oldest Trinbagonian companies, we know a thing or two about adapting to changing times and technologies and we want everyone, especially older persons to enjoy and embrace the things that keep us close in these challenging times. We also want them to enjoy the simple pleasures of social media networking or enjoying their favourite game on a screen rather than on paper too."
Dr Lavanya Thondavada, Department of Gerontology at St James Medical Complex, noted that an ageing population reflects success in society and should never be viewed as a burden. "Two people reach the age of 60 every second globally but there is much work to be done towards the digital inclusion of older persons in the health sector with a view to quality care. As a society, we must also seek to end ageism and age discrimination too. There is a human right in old age," Dr Thondavada added. "Strong social communications and connection is a core part of the wellbeing of the older person's physical and mental wellbeing today and we were happy to have highlighted this issue and also offered attendees a chance to learn more too," she added.
The morning's event also included presentations by a dietician and physical therapist to share information on nutrition and exercises for the older person and show them how to undertake their own research online. The oldest clinic attendee was also honoured at her prime age of 97!
Dr Kelli Alleyne Mike, Medical Director, St James Medical Complex, noted the need for technology in today's context. She added, "The global impact of Covid 19 has been significant and measures to bridge the gap between access to care and reduced exposure are critical now more than ever. Telemedicine is extremely relevant in today's discussion on how we navigate through the pandemic and manage in a pandemic and post-pandemic world," she highlighted. "International Older Persons Day provides the perfect backdrop for highlighting strategies geared towards equipping this cherished group of patients with the skills needed to aid health care access and also provide them with needed forums for interaction in a society where we have been forced to become more isolated. Therefore, it has not only direct clinical benefits but also can have a positive psycho-social impact too," the Medical Director elaborated.
The Gerontology Department at St James Medical Complex is the only one of its kind in T&T.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 1st October as the International Day of Older Persons (resolution 45/106). The UN has also adopted Plans and Principles related to ageing populations since the global life expectancy increased from 46 to 68 years between 1950 and 2010. As such, caring for a large percentage of ageing persons in a population is a more recent undertaking for governments, medical units and households globally. Technology is at the centre of universal recommendations to improve the quality of life and care for ageing persons. bmobile wishes to encourage all citizens to take some time with older relatives to showcase the power and potential of connectivity through smart devices so we can continue to keep in touch with those who need it the most in these times.