Senior living may not be the first industry that comes to mind when discussing technology, but that may be about to change. According to an article in Seniors Housing & Care Journal, technologically mediated recreational programming may have a positive impact on quality of life for long-term care residents.
In this study, long-term care residents were able to use a digital platform, accessible by computer or tablet, to participate in online games and social activities, access exercise classes, or engage in other recreational activities. The researchers used the platform to track participants’ time engaged in recreational activities over a one-year period, and compared this with residents’ cognitive functioning, depressive symptoms, social engagement, aggressive behavior, and psychotropic medication use at baseline and every three months. The final sample included 256 long-term care residents with an average age of 81.6.
After controlling for age, gender, and baseline scores, the researchers found that greater recreational engagement was associated with better cognitive functioning, more social engagement, and less aggressive behavior. There was also a trend for more recreationally engaged residents being prescribed fewer psychotropic medications, but this association was not significant. There was no association with depressive symptoms.
This is good news for communities hoping to implement technologically mediated programming, as this type of recreational activity appears to have significant benefits for residents’ quality of life. However, a control group was not used, so it is not clear if residents would have been just as engaged (and thus had better quality of life outcomes) had the technology not been in place. Even so, the technology-mediated programming seems to be effective and could translate to cost savings by reducing staff time needed to coordinate programming. Future research will need to explore the association with psychotropic medication prescriptions in more detail, as well as associations with other outcomes and more specific aspects of digital programming systems.
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McMahan EA, Godoy M, Awosanya A, Winningham RG, De Vilmorin C, and McMahon M. Better living through technology: The effects of technology-mediated recreation on long-term care facility residents’ quality of life. Seniors Housing & Care Journal (2019); 27(1): 17-30.