Reconnecting: Technology-Aided Maintenance of Cognitive Function and Social Ties

Award Date: 2018

Project Lead(s): Justine Henry, Manager, Research Services

Project Title: Reconnecting: Technology-Aided Maintenance of Cognitive Function and Social Ties

What is the issue?

As people age, there tend to be fewer opportunities to get together with family and friends. An increasing sense of social isolation and deteriorating mood may accelerate the mild cognitive decline that occurs in normal aging. Caregivers may not be able to provide enough support to slow this cognitive decline.

What did we do?

We partnered with Ambient Activity Technologies to develop a communications portal called GENIE. The technology allowed families to connect with elderly loved ones through an app or website. Users accessed the GENIE app on their smartphones or tablets and uploaded posts about their activities or used social media to connect. Family members sent voice and video messages that did not require immediate responses. Seniors responded to messages or uploaded their content at times of their choosing. Staff in long-term care homes also used GENIE to send messages to residents. For our study, we asked two residents and two family members to test GENIE.

What did we find?

Seniors found the button controls and navigation easy to use. They liked being able to read messages and respond at a time of their choosing. Residents enjoyed more interaction with their loved ones, especially those who cannot visit often. They had improved moods and looked forward to using GENIE.