Co.Design

Could Oversharing Save the Lives of Seniors?

A new device lets long-term-care patients broadcast their moods via Facebook and Twitter.
Buddy Radio

People who chart their emotional ups and downs on Facebookand Twitter are generally considered over-sharers, but what if those statusupdates could help save your life? That’s the idea behind the Buddy Radio, aconcept from the U.K.-based social innovation company Sidekick Studios currentlyundergoing a 12-month trial with the U.K.’s National Health Service. The BuddyRadio helps patients with long-term mental and physical illnesses manage care by allowing them tobroadcast their mood to a network of friends, family, and professional-careworkers. Users simply turn a dial to the setting that best expresses theircurrent state, and a message is transmitted to a range of social mediaplatforms: email, text, Facebook, IM, Twitter, etc.

The benefits of Buddy are clear: For patients, it’s hopedthe mere act of registering a mood as part of a daily routine will ease thestigma that’s often associated with reaching out for help. On the other side ofthe equation, it’s believed that increased awareness among caregivers “willhelp teams gauge when to intervene, or simply make contact,” say Sidekick’sdesigners. What’s more, by enlarging and enlightening each patient’s circle ofcare, the NHS could save an estimated $21 billion treating more patients athome and fewer at hospitals and walk-in centers. (Still, you wonder whether any health care system has the high-tech attentiveness to respond to this sort of technology--what keeps projects like these from being a way to forget seniors altogether?)

As Sidekick’s development blog points out, assisted techcould use both a makeover and an upgrade; most telecare devices are still of the"Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up" variety, and hardly any are DieterRams–inspired boxes able to blend seamlessly into the homes of aging babyboomers. So let's wait and see.

Follow along as the Buddy Radio’s technology is tested and tinkeredwith here.

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