Technology can help older adults | Stories | UNB is Here | UNB

Technology can help older adults

Technology is everywhere: from phones and tablets to smart watches, PlayStation to voice-controlled assistants, 3D printers to virtual reality and much more. But one place we don’t expect to see it is in a nursing home.

UNB nursing and health sciences professor Dr. Rose McCloskey is out to change that. She believes technology can improve the lives of older adults and, in some cases, help them to stay in their homes longer.

Personalization is key

Working in partnership with Loch Lomond Villa, a large, person-centred certified nursing home in Saint John, Dr. McCloskey recruited residents and their families to test three types of specialized devices.

She and a team of three students experimented with 3D immersive film and virtual reality to deliver what is known as reminiscence therapy. Residents with cognitive impairment were shown videos on topics familiar and meaningful to the viewers’ pasts, intended to calm them and to reduce caregiver burnout.

Another application was the ABBY, an interactive device that displays content specifically designed for each user, such as family photos, pictures of places the resident has lived, or favourite music. Users respond to the experiences through a touch screen. The major objectives are to reduce the need for antipsychotic medication and for those with cognitive impairment to engage with their environment.

For older adults wishing to stay in their homes, the team studied the effectiveness of the WellAssist platform from Routinify. It monitors and stores health information specific to an individual’s needs. It can sync data from health monitoring devices such as a smart watch and allow people to share this information with caregivers and their doctors. It can also provide reminders to take medications and attend medical appointments.

Results being analyzed

Supported by a portion of an $800,000 grant from the Centre for Aging & Brain Health/Baycrest and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, Dr. McCloskey and her team will continue to examine the ways in which these three specialized technology applications can support older adults.

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