Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Computers and your health are more related than you think. No, I'm not talking about kids being sucked into a black hole of technology. I'm talking about the ability to search for information on the internet and the ability to take action based on information from the web. For example, if you're wondering what symptoms are commonly associated with COVID or whether you should take a certain type of medication before or after eating, the answers are right at your fingertips. No more waiting for a doctor or family member. Being familiar with technology allows you to do it instantly all by yourself.
This is known as eHealth literacy (electronic health literacy) which is defined as the ability to take information from electronic sources and use the knowledge gained to address a health problem. The importance of being able to manage your own health conditions has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. During quarantine doctors and patients were not often seeing each other face to face. Patient care rested, for a large part, on the individual to make good decisions for themselves.
In the 21st century, almost all information has moved to the internet, making technology skills extremely important. However, so many people around the world don’t know how to do this which makes them vulnerable. Even if people have access to information, it doesn’t mean that they know how to use it. In America, 90 million people have difficulty understanding and using the health information that they have access to. What I’ve realized is that so many people either don’t know how to use it, or don’t realize the benefits of technology to their health.
Technology can allow you to connect with your doctor even if they aren’t in the same room. Video chat apps like Zoom and Facetime have become such key parts of the health experience, especially during COVID when quarantine policies were instated. My own grandfather had to learn how to use Facetime in order to “meet” with his physician and through technology he was able to consult his doctor. By doing this he was able to identify certain characteristics that prompted him to go in person to the doctor's office to get a full evaluation and diagnose him with tuberculosis. It was this small act of knowing how to use his device that brought his attention to his symptoms and enabled him to get the care he needed.
Technology not only allows for improvements in your physical health, it can also improve your mental health. Statistically, clinical depression in older people is common. In fact, according to Dr. Debra Bruce, late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. However, there is a simple solution to this that doesn't involve months of therapy and doctors' visits.
Technology enables elders to connect with friends even while not being able to directly see each other. Using apps and platforms like Instagram and Facebook you can view friend's pictures, videos, and get a peek into their life when they're not with you. A study conducted by Binh Bo and colleagues found that elders who knew how to use their computers and understand information on the internet were associated with an 8% higher healthy eating likelihood, and a 4% higher physical activity likelihood. (Binh) A recent study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry indicates that keeping in touch with friends and family using video chatting can reduce depressive symptoms in lonely seniors by as much as 50 percent! People with higher health literacy were less likely to experience depression and had overall healthier behaviors.
There are so many things that technology enables you to do that you might not even be aware of yet. So what are you waiting for? If you live in a seniot center consider talking to your activities director about setting a "Technology Day" so you can get some of the benefits as well