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Early risk detection and prevention in ageing people by self-administered ICT-supported assessment and a behavioural change intervention delivered by use of smartphones and smartwatches

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Mobile technology keeps seniors active and healthy

The EU-funded PreventIT project developed a smartphone application that empowers senior citizens to self-manage their own health and physical activity.

Digital Economy
Health

Europe’s population is greying, with life expectancy for both women and men being longer than ever before. Unfortunately, not all of these extra years come in the guise of healthy years. This creates a challenging situation where more people will need more healthcare, which must be provided by fewer people. To meet this challenge, society must shift the focus from treatment to prevention. This in turn requires the development of personalised technological solutions that promote active and healthy ageing – which is exactly what the EU-funded PreventIT project has done. “Through the PreventIT project, we developed a smartphone and smartwatch application that empowers people 61 to 70 years of age to self-manage their own health and physical activity,” says Jorunn Helbostad, project coordinator and professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the project’s lead partner. “This by no means is a traditional exercise app, but one that integrates short bouts of activity into everyday life.” Leveraging the power of mobile health Using the PreventIT app, called iPAS, senior citizens can test their functional fitness and get personalised advice on improving their balance, strength, and level of physical activity. The app leverages the sensors embedded in all smartphones and smartwatches, which allows it to monitor what the user does throughout the course of a day. Based on this, each user receives tailored feedback that takes into account their own goals and preferences. The app also encourages online, social interaction. The system was tested in two pilot studies, along with a feasibility randomised control trial. The latter compared the feasibility and usability of the user-centred iPAS system against the same intervention delivered via a traditional pen-and-paper format and against physical activity based on World Health Organization (WHO guidelines). The trial lasted six months and included 180 participants. “The participants liked the PreventIT system and changed their exercise behaviour, and also continued to use it after the completion of the intervention period,” says Prof. Helbostad. “This demonstrates the long-term benefits of using mobile health applications to encourage senior citizens to adapt a more active lifestyle.” Further developments planned According to Helbostad, the PreventIT proof-of-concept iPAS system is well-positioned to be developed into a stand-alone solution or as part of a full mobile health system. “Our solution has shed light on a part of the population that we know very little about,” Prof. Helbostad says. “We are very motivated to further develop our concept and better support active, healthy ageing.”

Keywords

PreventIT, mobile technology, senior citizens, healthcare, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, mobile health, World Health Organization, WHO

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