GERIATRIC CARE AND TELE-COMMUNICATION IN AN AGING POPULATION:
KEY FACTORS FOR THE SUCCESSFUL USE OF CUSTOMIZED VIDEOCONFERENCING BY HOME BOUND SENIORS

1Mathias Fruhwirth, P.Eng ., 2 Douglas E. Angus, PhD , 3 M-M Bernard, MD.

Introduction: Home-bound seniors are Canada's fastest growing population. Already frail seniors fall short of home care services and have fewer access to long term care institutions. The home care budget will become unmanageable by public funding unless it identifies new approaches. Since 1997, seniors in their apartments or long term care institutions in the Ottawa region, have been steadily using customized videoconferencing links to health centers, schools and various community organizations. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a five year analysis and retrospect on the key factors of success and failures, when supplying telehealth solutions to frail seniors.

Description: Various IT models were tested in 1996-1997 during three surveys (total 229 seniors) and led to the design of personal videoconferencing (VC)units with simplified access for seniors with disabilities. Since 1999, VC users have been participants of the growing "Intergenerational Virtual Village". In light of the reports of four telehealth projects and of yearly evaluations of the recreational and cross cultural programs, we are examining the pros and cons as well as structural and cultural barriers to the VC involvement of seniors.

Results: Main prerequisites for successful videoconferencing in a geriatric population are threefold: non-intrusive, readily accessible technologies; inducing of nonverbal communication and health related support; guaranteed privacy and confidentiality.

Conclusions: In an aging population with increasing needs for home care, simplified VC for home users could become an indispensable adjunct of supportive housing and long term care services for seniors.

1 Network Director, PACE 2000 International Foundation (Programmes for Autonomy and Communication for the Elderly)
2 Vice Dean and Associate Dean (Academic), School of Management, University of Ottawa
3 President, PACE 2000 International Foundation (Programmes for Autonomy and Communication for the Elderly)





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