- 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 www.philips.com/caregiving.