Smart Medical Devices used by Older Adults: Privacy and Security Practices and Risks

Conference: The European Conference on Aging & Gerontology (EGen2022)
Title: Smart Medical Devices used by Older Adults: Privacy and Security Practices and Risks
Stream: Entrepreneurship/Silver Economy
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Jeannine Rowe, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, United States
Deanna Guthrie, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, United States


Older adults are growing users of smart medical devices (SMDs). While valuable, SMDs are often adopted with little knowledge or understanding of how to use them. These limitations and the reality that older adults are targets for cyber-attacks poses individual privacy and security risks. Given the wide adoption of SMDs among older adults and limited research on the privacy and security of SMDs, an exploratory study was conducted. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 42 adults age 60+ (m = 70.5;SD = 7.3) who reside in a Midwest region of the United States and use one or more SMD. Participants were asked to share how they use their SMDs, discuss their understanding of how information is collected, stored, and used, and share perceptions regarding the security of SMDs. Qualitative data analysis revealed five themes: SMDs are used to manage chronic health conditions or improve health, sharing of personal health information with others such as doctors, family, or friends is common practice, users are satisfied with their SMDs, knowledge of privacy and security features is limited – few were able to recall the specific privacy statements of their SMDs, and there is a general lack of concern regarding personal health information being accessed by individuals other than those intended. The findings highlight behaviors that may put older adults at greater risk for cyber-attacks and comprise their individual privacy and security. Implications and recommendations for older adults around best practices for keeping health information private and secure while using SMDs will be discussed.

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