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Understanding and Reducing Isolation Due to Chronic Pain

By Benjamin, Alison; David, Jessica; Baecker, Ron; Gromala, Diane; Birnholtz, Jeremy; Furlan, Andrea; Boscart, Veronique; RESNA/ICTA 2011: Advancing Rehabilitation Technologies for an Aging Society, June 5-8, 2011, Toronto, Canada,
Publication Date: 2011

Paper outlines the design and development of a digital two way communication device that could reduce the isolation of seniors with chronic pain. To identify existing communication patterns and needs, an interview study was conducted with 20 community-dwelling seniors with an average age of 73 years, 4 of whom were male. Participants reported a variety of chronic pain causing conditions including osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, and diabetes, and half of participants reported feeling socially isolated. In parallel, a digital communicating picture frame prototype was created and deployed in two households. The device consisted of a touch screen computer fitted inside a picture frame and displaying a picture of the user’s family or friends. When the frame was touched, an email was sent to those in the picture, encouraging them to log on to a website to send a video to the frame owner. When the video arrived, the owner was notified and, at a self chosen time, touched the screen to watch it. The picture frame deployment lasted for two weeks, with interviews conducted at its baseline installation and at the conclusion of the study. Results suggested that communication methods that afford for asynchronous contact may be suitable in situation where an individual desires limited contact. As an asynchronous tool, the frame lent itself to limited interaction on the owner side. Family members also found this useful, because they were able to respond to a request from the frame in a manner that was not time sensitive. Potential drawbacks to the tool and implications for future development of the picture frame are discussed.
Published by: Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA)   (Website:

Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA)    (Web Site: )
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