November 27, 2015
Reminders only work if you can hear them – as I found out to my cost this morning. I had been looking forward to a scrumptious Yorkshire breakfast, served from 7am to 10am, only to wake up at 10.17am.
Why did I sleep through my trusty phone alarm? Because my phone hadn’t been charging; I had forgotten to switch on the socket into which I had plugged it. (In the UK, we need to switch on sockets before they will provide electricity).
Now imagine that you can no longer hear the alarms you set not because you failed to charge your phone, but because your hearing is going. What do you do?
I discuss a few strategies that I have discovered when working with older people as part of my research into human-computer interaction.
All of these ideas are inspired by what older people have told me and my colleagues, or by what we have seen them do. This is perhaps the most important point of my talk. People are experts in what works for them. Very often, all it takes is a bit of active listening to uncover a solution that builds on their existing habits, their routines, and the layout of the spaces and places where they live.
This is really the most important trick – make the action to be remembered as natural and habitual as possible.
Once you have ensured that, the rest is icing on the cake:
- ensure that people choose reminders that they actually choose to hear. (That includes reminders which are so irritating that you just have to get out of bed to silence them.)
- ensure that people can understand what the reminder is all about. Again, you can take advantage of associations people already have. For example, people may choose a snippet from their favorite love song to remind them to take their heart medications
- ensure that the reminders are not stigmatizing. It can be hard to admit that one’s memory is going, that one is no longer coping. Having one’s style cramped is even harder.
If you would like personalized advice or talk further, please do not hesitate to contact me via email (maria dot wolters at ed dot ac dot uk) or on Twitter (@mariawolters).
I also provide tailored consulting and training packages at ehealth-tech-doctor.com.