An early adopter and integrator of technology, Chile scores highest among Latin American countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Networked Readiness Index, which measures a country’s propensity to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology (ICT). It has the highest internet penetration rate in the region, with 85.7 percent of the population having access to internet, substantially higher than the 65.9 percent average in the Americas and 79.6 percent in Europe. This high degree of integration and connectivity carries a range of benefits for older adults, including strengthening social connections and enhancing access and mobility. But more can be done to strengthen ICT skills and leverage technology to enhance the well-being of Chile’s older generations.
The share of older adults with a smartphone had increased from 3.6 percent in 2013 to 20.1 percent in 2016. For those who use the internet, the Online Poll of Usage of Digital Platforms indicates that 71.1 percent use email, 57.3 percent use WhatsApp, and 53.7 percent use social media at least 30 minutes per day.
Source: Fourth National Poll of the Quality of Life in Old Age
The eHomeseniors project represents an exception and potential model, seeking to enhance older adults’ lives through technology. The project was launched in 2015 based on an idea from Carla Taramasco, an academic at the University of Valparaiso. Funded by the regional government of Valparaiso, she sought to incorporate the idea of using technology to create “smart spaces” that serve the needs of older adults. The project was developed with the support of the Servicio de Salud Viña del Mar Quillota (Health Service from Viña del Mar Quillota) and the geriatric hospitals from the region. Together they developed the project with the goal of, according to Taramasco, “taking care of the older adult inside their own home, improving their quality of life, increasing autonomy, and reducing health risks inside the home.” The eHomeseniors project developed three smart sensors to be placed within the home of older adults: one to detect nycturia— the need to urinate in the middle of the night - a second sensor to detect repetitive events as a means of identifying early symptoms of cognitive deterioration, and a third that recognizes falls and communicates with those who can assist older adult.
“If you ask me today if older adults are seen as consumers, [I would say] at this moment they are not a concern of industry. However, if there was an orientation demonstrating potential demand, undoubtedly the companies would respond.”
– Marco Zuniga, CEO of Chiletec