One of the challenges in independent living communities where most seniors currently reside is how nurses and caretakers can offer support to these patients when there are too many of them in one place.

Now, a group of researchers from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana developed a new mobile and tablet application which could help health workers reach out to patients proactively and assist seniors in enhancing their physical health, brain fitness and vitality.

Known as eSeniorCare, the app is a personalized socio-ecological construct around the senior. Existing apps merely track data, but this new app helps seniors in a novel way. The app, which was developed by the university's Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications (iCeNSA), empowers and engages the attention of seniors, and enables health workers to extend their help to seniors without hindering their independence. These patients can connect with care providers by sending questions and concerns through text or voice recordings, making it interactive.

iCeNSA Director Nitesh Chawla explained that the app is focused on the needs of the individual.

"It is about personalized health care," she said, emphasizing that developers aimed to bring data and technology together to empower the aging population to live productive, social, independent and healthy lives.

One of the components of the app is the tracking of a variety of health goals. Seniors can set goals such as drink less caffeine or eat less fast food, and maintain a record of various activities in support of these goals. They can send their records to resident health administrators for guidance, personal motivation and reflection.

The app also includes management and scheduling of medication, a record of the medication history, reminders when to take medication, and adherence to medication. The reminders have video, audio and textual components. Caretakers can see when patients fail to take medications correctly or when these medications are not renewed on time. They can quickly intervene to solve the problem.

There are also brain games within the app which are designed to enhance the cognitive health of patients and avoid the degeneration of mental functions. There are Sudoku and crossword puzzles, as well as other games that can provide mental stimulation.

When seniors first started to use the app, there were some trepidation, developers said, but later on, these patients quickly became at ease and enthusiastic with using it.

Kimberly Green Reeves of the Beacon Health System, which collaborated with the university to design the app, said that the use of eSeniorCare provides a framework for management of pain, nutrition and medication. The app fosters productivity by giving the patients opportunity to track their goals and be encouraged along the way. It also has the potential to enhance communication between staff and senior residents, she said.

"Ultimately, eSeniorCare helps sustain and support independent living and the well-being of elderly residents with limited income," added Reeves.

In the meantime, the developers are pilot testing the app at senior independent living facilities in the South Bend area in Indiana. The app is yet to be available for market use.

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