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Self-tracking technology for senior health: existing practices and unmet needs for wellness, self-management, and recovery


As societies across the globe grow progressively older, it is important to find ways to leverage technology to benefit seniors by assisting them to care for their health. Self-tracking is a strategy that can be used for health management and augmented by using technology such as smartphones and wearable devices.

Although most seniors use self-tracking for health, they most commonly rely on either paper or their own memories when tracking health data. Because their adoption of self-tracking technology is very low, seniors miss any benefits that might be gained from using self-tracking technology, such as self-knowledge, encouragement, or reduced burden. Overcoming this issue requires designing tools that appeal to seniors and meet their specific needs.

Although past research has found multiple barriers for seniors’ use of self-tracking technology, such as lower accuracy when counting steps due to gait or walking speed, there is still much we do not understand about how to create self-tracking technology that better meets their needs. My research investigates self-tracking for health among older adults, with the goal of understanding their existing tracking practices, their perspectives towards self-tracking technology, and their needs as potential users. In this dissertation I discuss three kinds of health-related self-tracking among seniors: wellness, self-management of chronic conditions, and recovery from a major health event.

Through a quantitative survey data reanalysis, I investigate the relationships of age and health status with tracking habits to understand the influence of each of these factors on self-tracking practices. Based on empirical evidence, I also describe seniors’ existing use of and perspectives towards self-tracking for health and the barriers for adoption of self-tracking technology among seniors.

Lastly, I investigate the role of self-tracked medical recovery data among stroke survivors and healthcare providers by describing their existing use of the data, the barriers limiting further use, and participants’ perspectives on potentially useful insights. Building upon these projects’ findings, I discuss barriers for senior use of self-tracking technologies, what unmet needs they exhibit, and promising directions for the design of effective self-tracking technology for seniors’ wellness, self-management, and recovery.

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