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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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