DigitalWells (Digital Wellness Services for Young Elderly) research and development program is carried out during 2019–2021 (1st phase) in Finland. The IAMSR research institute is responsible for the coordination of the program. After 2021, the 2nd phase of the program is planned for 2022-2024. The program is mainly aimed for young elderly people (60-75+ age group), but also older participants are welcomed. At the heart of the program is the promotion of physical activity and the prevention of insufficient physical activity and its consequences. The program’s focus is on people aged 60+, because of 1) the possibility to build a strong impact on better health for the ageing population, 2) which will potentially have significant effects on the escalating costs for elderly care, and 3) contribute to better quality of life and more healthy years for the elderly.
The focus of the DigitalWells program is on promoting and supporting physical activity. A central goal of the program is to promote the formation of sustainable everyday PA routines, that is, developing and maintaining daily routines that include sufficient, appropriate, effective, varied, and long-term physical activity to achieve positive health effects among the participants. Through this, the aim is to prevent the negative consequences of insufficient physical activity, to support participants towards healthier aging, and to help bring more good years into later life. This way, the program also has the potential to reduce the health care costs of the aging population.
DigitalWells cooperates with the Finnish unions and associations for retired people, through which local groups of 20–50 volunteer participants are recruited and formed all over Finland. The groups are guided into the program either via group meetings or remotely. A free DigitalWells mobile application to support everyday physical activity is provided to all the participants. The implementation has been made easy and designed for the target audience. Support for the implementation and use of the application is provided. Participants carry out physical activity in free-living conditions, i.e., according to their own preferences. During the DigitalWells program, participants will also receive general information about the benefits of physical activity and are presented with tips and good practices to promote it.
The DigitalWells application was developed for the target group in the research program. The application operates on the Wellmo application platform (Wellmo 2019), where the application features constitute their own entity. Wellmo supports iOS and Android operating systems. The central features are related to logging and tracking everyday physical activity and exercise. This includes, for example, features for tracking and following the conducted physical activities and exercises, as well as weekly, monthly, and annual reports on the conducted physical activity and exercise. It is also possible to import data from external services supported by the Wellmo platform, such as Google Fit, Apple Health, and Polar Flow. Another key feature is the ability to transfer the logged personal physical activity data to My Kanta Personal Health Record (Kanta PHR), which is a Finnish national repository for personal wellness records.
In addition to the DigitalWells application, further digital solutions to support physical activity are planned to be developed in the future. The solutions are developed especially with the target group of young elderly people in mind, partly together with them. The solutions are based on research results collected from international research programs and studies. In the 1st phase of the program, participants have free access to the DigitalWells application. Participants can also transfer the logged personal physical activity data to Kanta PHR. The connection to Kanta PHR was developed in cooperation with the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, who operates the Kanta PHR. DigitalWells application was the second application approved for the Kanta PHR.
The research in the DigitalWells program focuses on digital wellness technology use and supporting physical activity through technology among young elderly. The approach is cross-disciplined drawing from both information systems and sports and wellness related fields. Researched topics include, for example: how to support the physical activity behavior of young elderly people with the help of technology; participants' physical activity levels and related self-efficacy, habits, and goal-setting; technology acceptance; use and experiences of technology to support physical activity. Longitudinal and cross-sectional data collected through surveys and via the DigitalWells application are used. All participants are asked for a written informed consent.
The research is presented and disseminated via scientific research papers published in relevant peer-reviewed conferences and journals. Further practical applications as well as information that can be utilized in government-level strategic planning and programs for the aging population are produced.
In collaboration with
IAMSR research institute is responsible for the implementation and coordination of the program. Collaborators include The Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Rehabilitation Foundation Peurunka, Wellmo Mobile Wellness Solutions, Age Institute, Folkhälsan, Finnish Pensioners' Federation, The Central Association of Finnish Pensioners, Svenska Pensionärsförbundet, UKK Institute, and researchers from several Finnish universities.
The DigitalWells program (1st phase) is funded by a development project funding granted by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
Professor Christer Carlsson, christer.carlsson(at)abo.fi, 040 0520 346
Tuomas Kari, D.Sc., tuomas.t.kari(at)jyu.fi, 040 8255 708
Markus Makkonen, D.Sc., markus.v.makkonen(at)jyu.fi.