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Could technology help cure depression among older adults? (Short answer: Yes)

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Why tech­nol­o­gy — not med­ica­tion — is the future of treat­ing old­er adults with depres­sion (McKnight’s Long-term Care News):

The go-to treat­ment for many cas­es of depres­sion is med­ica­tion.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this treat­ment option can cause as many issues as the prob­lem it is try­ing to solve. Anti­de­pres­sants can put res­i­dents at greater risk of falls, neg­a­tive health com­pli­ca­tions and oth­er poor con­di­tions. Some stud­ies indi­cate that anti­de­pres­sants may not be effec­tive for most old­er Amer­i­cans.

Med­ica­tion adher­ence is anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge. Accord­ing to a study by Topolovec-Vran­ic, et al., “indi­vid­u­als with depres­sion are … three times less com­pli­ant in the adher­ence to med­ical reg­i­mens in chron­ic ill­ness com­pared to those with­out depres­sion” …

These days, many long-term care com­mu­ni­ties are uti­liz­ing engage­ment tech­nol­o­gy as a more cre­ative and con­nect­ed approach to car­ing for res­i­dents with depres­sion, espe­cial­ly those with mem­o­ry loss or cog­ni­tive decline…Computers, tablets or smart­boards with touch­screen ver­sa­til­i­ty and adap­tive devices for indi­vid­u­als with phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive dis­abil­i­ties. These devices are loaded with pic­ture-based inter­faces to launch senior-friend­ly appli­ca­tions with con­tin­u­al­ly updat­ed con­tent for brain fit­ness, edu­ca­tion, vir­tu­al trav­el, spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, music, games, triv­ia, exer­cise and spe­cial­ized demen­tia pro­gram­ming. They offer fam­i­ly com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools includ­ing web­cams for video chat and user-friend­ly email.

A study in the Jour­nals of Geron­tol­ogy found that Inter­net use among retired old­er adults reduces the prob­a­bil­i­ty of depres­sion by 33 per­cent. Oth­er stud­ies found that engag­ing with com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy can be play­ing cer­tain com­put­er games as just as effec­tive — if not more — reduc­ing symp­toms of depres­sion as anti­de­pres­sants. Exec­u­tive func­tion — those men­tal skills required for plan­ning and orga­niz­ing behav­ior — also improved.”

StudyFight­ing Iso­la­tion With Tech­nol­o­gy (Leadin­gAge)

  • Sum­ma­ry: It’s well doc­u­ment­ed that social iso­la­tion can lead to depres­sion, decreased qual­i­ty of life and oth­er relat­ed issues for old­er adults. Today’s ever-more-sophis­ti­cat­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies can go a long way toward alle­vi­at­ing iso­la­tion and boost­ing well-being.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness, Technology

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