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App to Accelerometer: Can Technology Improve Mental Health in Older People?

Technology can help older people with mental health and medication management.

Seeing an older person suffer from memory impairment, depressed mood, anxiety, or lack of motivation can be devastating, especially when physical distance is maintained. With waiting lists for appointments stretching over months, you may be wondering about the alternatives.

Reaching out to family members and faith leaders may help them talk about stressors. May offer perspective. But with the explosion of mental health mobile applications, telepsychiatric services, social media, and wearable technology, where does technology fit in with treatment?

Combat age stereotypes

You may see your loved ones wrestling with computers and wonder whether to pursue technology-based therapies in the first place. Although you may be reluctant to use new technology because of your fear of doing something, a little help from your loved ones can ease the discomfort of technology. Over the past decade, technology adoption has grown rapidly among older adults, with potential benefits for mental health, daily functioning, and quality of life.

Go virtual

Years into the pandemic, seniors are increasingly seeing their doctors online. How good is this for mental health? Thankfully, some studies have shown that virtual therapy is comparable to in-person therapy.

What about mobile apps stripped of the human element? The data here suggest that mobile apps are complementary, but not sufficient as a stand-alone treatment for mental illness.


As you navigate your online treatments, you need to ensure that the platform you use is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant. Your information is protected by law. Zoom and BlueJeans are HIPAA compliant. FaceTime and Skype are different. If you use the mental health mobile app, please read our privacy policy. Red flags include sharing or selling information to third parties and using your information for advertising.

Which app is most useful for seniors?

The landscape is changing so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up with the proliferation of mental health apps for online therapy. For telemedicine services, Teladoc, K health and Doctor on Demand are good starting points.

To supplement treatments for common mental illnesses, federally developed wellness apps (such as mindfulness coaches, COVID coaches, and CBT-i coaches) can help coach skills, manage sleep, and track symptoms. increase. Medisafe is the top ranked medication reminder app for good reason. It has great privacy features (with a premium subscription you can receive medication reminders in celebrity voices).

exercise and mental health

We know that physical activity has many benefits for brain health in old age. It may reduce anxiety and stress, improve depressive symptoms, and even enhance learning and memory. Smartwatches (which use accelerometers to track movement) allow seniors to monitor steps taken, calories burned, and even sleep at night.

Wearable technology also has benefits for caregivers. It can be used to monitor your loved ones for wanderings and falls, and can also alert you to mood changes. Significant increases or decreases in normal activity levels can signal early signs of depression and anxiety.

Can smartphones be used to improve memory in older people?

New research shows that technology can actually improve future memory and help older people with mild cognitive impairment continue with their daily lives. By using personal assistant applications (digital voice recorders or reminder apps) on smartphones, older adults who received reminders about events and activities experienced memory benefits and improvements in activities of daily living.

Tips for using technology with older adults

While the benefits and harms of using technology are still under study, you can try:

  • Encourage older adults to try research-based applications if they are particularly interested.
  • Please be sure to read our privacy policy if you are using our mobile health app. If you’re using an online mental health platform, make sure it’s HIPAA compliant.
  • Be sure to set a goal for physical activity because physical activity can help improve the symptoms of nearly all mental illnesses. Wearable technology that counts steps is a good starting point.
  • Change your device settings to improve your comfort. This includes volume and font size optimizations to accommodate visual and auditory changes.

If mental health technology isn’t right for your loved one, that’s okay. Technology is not always the answer. Treatment is most effective when the patient believes it will help and can continue with it.