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Unintended consequences: caregivers may be a barrier to the aging becoming tech savvy

April 30, 2015

  • Study from Georgetown University's Global Social Enterprise and Philips shows that 74% of family caregivers think teaching tech to seniors would be fun and 63% believe their care recipient is ready to learn, but time remains an obstacle as they already spend an average of 11 work days per month on basic caregiving activities

  • 44% of caretakers are concerned that the seniors in their care are depressed and lonely, but caregivers haven't taken any new steps to improve their social enrichment

Andover, MA, USA – The Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and Philips released the final results of a three-part aging study today, revealing that family caregivers are unintentional barriers to technology adoption and usage by older adults in their care – even though they acknowledge it can be an important way of enriching the care recipient's life.

The Philips/GSEI study, which surveyed caregivers most likely to use technology as a caregiving tool, revealed a series of contradictions in the attitudes and behaviors among the caregivers and their care recipients. These contradictions provide insights into the low adoption of technology for aging well.

According to the study:

  • 44 percent of caregivers said they are concerned that the older adults in their care are depressed or lonely, and recognize the importance of entertainment and enrichment activities, such as social interaction, entertainment, and education
  • Similarly, 62 percent of those surveyed said that enrichment for the care recipient is at, or near, the top of their priority list

Moreover, in one-on-one interviews with a group of care recipients, they most often cited social interaction as what matters most to them as they age. However, 67 percent of caregivers report that the older adult in their care has not started any new enrichment activities in the past two years and most often seeks enrichment through watching television and talking on the phone.

Desire versus reality

It is not the caregiver's lack of desire or ability that prevents them from introducing new technology to their care recipients. For instance, the study reveals that:

  • 63 percent of caregivers believe their care recipient is open to using new technology
  • Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of caregivers said it is fun or extremely fun to teach a care recipient a new technology
  • 72 percent feel capable of teaching a new technology

With the caregivers' attitudes amenable to sharing new technologies with their care recipient, why has this not become a reality? According to the study, time constraints are a major factor. In fact, while 63 percent indicated that they believe they have the time to invest in teaching their care recipient a new technology, most caregivers in the study reported spending an average of 88 hours per month on caregiving activities. This is in addition to daily responsibilities – for instance, 72 percent work full time and 76 percent have children in their household.

Additionally, when asked what they would do if technology could be employed to cut the time spent on caregiving duties in half, caregivers prioritized personal errands, quality time with their own family, and entertainment over spending more time with their older adult loved one. In fact, only 17 percent of the recovered time would be allocated toward spending more time with their care recipient.

"Caregivers are so overwhelmed by the demands of managing basic needs that they tend to only think of technology as tools to save time or provide safety," said Bill Novelli, founder of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative and Georgetown McDonough distinguished professor of the practice. "We need to eliminate the disconnect between the caregivers' ability to incorporate enriching technology into their care routines and their role in providing basic care for their loved ones."

In addition to time constraints placed on the caregiver, the caregiver's perception of what defines successful aging focuses on the health of the adult for which they are caring. As a result, caregivers are viewing technology for aging well too narrowly and products aimed at caregivers primarily fall into the category of health and safety monitoring – which give caregivers comfort and peace of mind. However, there was virtually no mention of technology use for social interaction or enrichment among caregivers, even though 73 percent acknowledge that the older adult in their care will become more reliant on them for entertainment and enrichment as they age.

"These studies provide the industry with powerful insight into the complex dynamic between the caregiver and care recipient," said Kimberly O'Loughlin, general manager of Philips Home Monitoring. "Instead of just focusing on the physical well-being of the care recipient, we now know that technology solutions need to be mutually beneficial, giving the caregiver time back in their day, as well as addressing the social and emotional needs of the care recipient, in order to have a meaningful impact on both their lives."

The results of this study were discussed at an expert roundtable at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business facilitated by Philips and GSEI in April 2015.

This study was the third conducted as part of a partnership between Philips and GSEI, which included "Aging Well: Next Generation Tech," a 2013 survey on technology and aging at home, and "Aging Well: Creating Connected Communities for Aging Well," a 2014 survey focused on aging and independence. The full results of the current study can be found at

Aging Well Infographic

Aging Well Infographic

About Royal Philips

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) is a diversified health and well-being company, focused on improving people's lives through meaningful innovation in the areas of Healthcare, Consumer Lifestyle and Lighting. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Philips posted 2014 sales of EUR 21.4 billion and employs approximately 105,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries. The company is a leader in cardiac care, acute care and home healthcare, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications, as well as male shaving and grooming and oral healthcare. News from Philips is located at

About the Global Social Enterprise Initiative

The Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business aims to prepare current and future leaders to make responsible management decisions that yield both economic and social value. Through practical training for global business leaders, the initiative promotes transformative solutions to and impactful investments in the world's significant challenges in health and well-being, economic growth, the environment, and international development. It is led by Distinguished Professor of the Practice Bill Novelli and Executive Director Ladan Manteghi. Learn more at

About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business

Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business provides a transformational education through classroom and experiential learning, preparing students to graduate as principled leaders in the service to business and society. Through numerous centers, initiatives, and partnerships, Georgetown McDonough seeks to create a meaningful impact on business practice through both research and teaching. All academic programs provide a global perspective, woven through the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a way that is unique to Washington, D.C. – the nexus of world business and policy – and to Georgetown University's connections to global partner organizations and a world-wide alumni network. Founded in 1957, Georgetown McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive degree or open enrollment programs. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter: @msbgu..

Notes to the editor:

Methodology: The study "Family Matters in Caregiving and Tech Adoption" conducted in partnership with Epitome Group, engaged in 20 paired qualitative interviews with caregivers and care recipients to assess technology use for caregiving among the general population. The data from those discussions, as well as secondary research on technology use among seniors, was then used to develop a quantitative survey which was given to a sample of 255 Americans and Canadians, aged 30-65, who were most likely to use technology for caregiving and have care recipients who were also technology users..

For further information, please contact:

Brynn Boyer
McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
(202) 687-5254

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