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Household appliances could give care advice

2 December 2010

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Scientists are hoping to create a device to give guidance to older people in remote areas suffering chronic pain via their TV or phone.

They believe accessing care advice from a household appliance could provide a suitable alternative for patients unable to visit a doctor or hospital.

An element of social interaction to boost patients’ mood could be incorporated into the device, which would be attached to the household appliance or integrated in it.

The team from the University of Aberdeen and UHI, the University of the Highlands and Islands, is seeking input from elderly people in the design and testing of the technology.

“In the development of a prototype, it is paramount that we take into account the capabilities of those who will be using the device and create something which is both technically and physically simple to use,” explained Dr Gaener Rodger.

“Chronic pain sufferers often face mobility challenges, so it is important to consider this when thinking about the size and style of the device. Also, cognitive function may decrease in older people, which can create a barrier in the uptake of new technology within this group.

“For this reason, we will investigate how the device we develop could be integrated into, or added onto, a household appliance already found in most homes, such as a television or telephone, which people already know, understand and feel comfortable using.”

Dr Pat Schofield, of Aberdeen University, added: “One of the greatest fears for an older person living in a remote location is that the introduction of technology in their health treatment will result in losing the social interaction they gain from one-to-one visits from health or social care professionals.

“Our aim is to create a device which retains rather than removes personal and social interaction with others – and we’ll look at how, for example, web cam or teleconferencing technology could be integrated into what we create to achieve this.”

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University of Aberdeen