Boosting Hydration Habits in Older Adults with Augmented Reality

Jan 02, 2024

Imagine 78-year-old Martha, who often forgets to drink enough water throughout the day, a common issue that worries her family. However, everything changed when her granddaughter introduced her to an AR app to track her water intake. Now, Martha delights in seeing her virtual garden thrive as she meets her daily water goals.

This simple yet innovative technology has improved her hydration and brought a newfound sense of joy and accomplishment to her daily routine. Staying hydrated, a seemingly straightforward task, poses a significant challenge for older adults. Diminished thirst sensation and medication effects often lead to dehydration, a condition with serious health implications (Taylor & Jones, 2021). The innovative solution? Augmented Reality (AR) app. These aren't your average tech gimmicks; they're a fusion of fun and functionality designed to promote hydration among our aging population.

Augmented reality transcends the realm of gaming, merging the digital with the tangible to create experiences that can positively alter our behaviors. This concept resonates with Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory, suggesting our actions are influenced by our beliefs and anticipated outcomes (Bandura, 1997). When older adults believe in the health benefits of staying hydrated and see these benefits reinforced through AR apps, they're more likely to adopt healthier habits.

The Synergy of Theories in AR Hydration Apps

Integrating Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1997) with broader behavioral models, like the Health Action Process Approach (Schwarzer, 2008), these apps influence actions through a mix of intentions, attitudes, and perceived benefits. If an older adult recognizes the health benefits of water and find the process engaging through an app, they're more likely to maintain this healthy behavior.

Case in Point: Plant Nanny2

Consider Plant Nanny2, more than just a hydration tool – it's a digital companion. This app ingeniously applies the principles of self-efficacy and anticipated outcomes, with users witnessing their virtual plants flourish as they meet their hydration goals, providing powerful visual and emotional motivation (FourDesire, n.d.).

The process is straightforward yet profound. Users start by setting up an account, receiving reminders, and tracking their water intake. Each sip translates into the growth of a virtual plant, fostering a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. This experience transcends mere hydration; it's about nurturing life, albeit digitally, reinforcing the act of self-care.

Beyond the Virtual Garden

Remarkably, these behaviors often extend past the confines of the app. As older adults build confidence in their hydration habits, they inadvertently become role models for their peers, demonstrating that age is not a barrier to embracing new, health-positive technologies (Lee et al., 2019).

While promising, these apps invite further research, particularly regarding honesty and accountability. How does inputting inaccurate intake data impact users' self-belief and behavior change? This area offers fertile ground for future studies.

AR apps like Plant Nanny2 are more than just playful tools; they are catalysts for healthier living. They offer a unique combination of engagement, education, and behavioral change tailored for older adults. As app designers continue to harness these psychological theories, the potential for promoting healthy aging becomes increasingly tangible and exciting.


From Insight to Action 💡

Embrace AR for Personal Health
Start experimenting with AR apps like Plant Nanny2 to track your hydration or other health metrics. It's a fun and engaging way to manage your well-being and benefits older adults prone to dehydration.
 
Incorporate AR in Professional Healthcare
Healthcare professionals should consider integrating AR into patient care for older adults. AR can be a valuable tool for hydration tracking and health monitoring, enhancing patient engagement and care.
 
Leverage AR in Tech and Entertainment
Those in the tech and entertainment industries can consider how AR technology can create engaging, health-promoting experiences, potentially collaborating with healthcare experts to develop new applications.
 
Utilize AR in Educational Settings
Educators and trainers can use AR as a tool for teaching about health and technology and developing curriculums or workshops that highlight the intersection of these fields.
 
Advocate for AR Technology in Community Settings
If you're involved in community work with older adults, advocate for the use of AR technology. Organize workshops or information sessions to demonstrate these tools, promoting healthy habits and proactive health management.
 
Contribute to AR Health Research and Development
Those in tech or academia could contribute to the research and development of AR health applications, creating more user-friendly, effective, and accessible tools for public health, especially for vulnerable populations.


References

  • Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
  • FourDesire. (n.d.) Plant Nanny is Back. https://making-of.plantnanny.app/
  • Lee, NL, Kim, MJ, and Hwang, WJ. (2019). Potential of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Technologies to Promote Well-being in Older Adults. Applied Sciences 9, no. 17: 3556. https://doi.org/10.3390/app9173556
  • Schwarzer, R. (2008). Modeling Health Behavior Change: How to Predict and Modify the Adoption and Maintenance of Health Behaviors. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 57, 1-29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2007.00325.x
  • Taylor K, Jones EB. Adult Dehydration. [Updated 2021 Oct 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555956/
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