Using Pervasive Computing for Sustainable Healthcare in an Aging Population

Using Pervasive Computing for Sustainable Healthcare in an Aging Population

Adam Ka Lok Wong (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Man Fung Lo (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2633-9.ch010
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Statistics have shown that not only the proportion of elderly as part of the world's population is growing, but there also is a growing deficit of the working population compared to the retired population. Therefore, the provision for age-related medical conditions will put a heavy pressure on the healthcare system. This chapter discusses how pervasive computing can be used to help to achieve sustainability in healthcare for the elderly. Mobile devices can facilitate old adults to actively seek for health and nutrition information, beware of their vital signs, and follow an active life style in a safe manner. Light-weight wearable electronic devices can provide acute care and rehabilitation services to the elderly without causing a big impact to their quality of life. A model is suggested to integrate the use of pervasive computing in health education, health management, doctor support, and monitored rehabilitation at home.
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The problem of the aging population can be measured by the Elderly Dependency Ratio (EDR). Basically, EDR is ratio of the number of people who have reached retirement age to the number of people of working age. An EDR of greater than 50% means there is a person at the working age has to support more than one elderly person. The specific definition depends on the designated retirement age of the society under study. For example, Athauda et al. (2015, p.97) defined EDR as “the ratio between the population over 65 years, and the population between 15-65 years of age”. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defined EDR as the number of persons of working age (aged 15 to 64) per person aged 65 or over (Harper, 2014). The OECD estimated that by 2050, the EDR is expected to reach 51% for the European Union members, and 74% for Japan. An alternative measure is the difference in the number of people reaching the working age to the number of people reaching the retirement age. Based on this measure, there is a demographic deficit for the OECD members around 2016. In the foreseeable future, the world will see an EDR of greater than 51% and a demographic deficit. This implies that not only a working person has to support more than one elderly, but also that the trend will get worse as time goes by. Therefore, new and sustainable forms of health care will be crucial to meet the growing demand for more and more age-related spending, in the face of a declining portion of people of the working age.

Blowfield (2013, p.6) defined sustainability as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This definition has implications for governments and businesses. One of the implications is that it must meet the increased expectations of today’s citizens and consumers. With today’s advances in telecommunications network and high proliferation of technology, the elderly and their care-takers expect that they can get better healthcare without substantial increase in cost and causing excessive burden on future generations. The use of pervasive computing is a solution to achieve that sustainability.

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