The goal of this 60 month multi-method, multi-disciplinary study is to determine whether information and communication technology (ICT) usage can increase social capital and enhance quality of life (QoL) among residents of assisted living facilities (ALFs).
The specific aims of this project are to: (1) Implement a multi-component randomized controlled trial intervention in 15 AL facilities In the greater Birmingham, Alabama area;(2) Assess the effect of the interventions on QoL and Social Capital;(3) Assess whether observed intervention effects are due to ICT usage;(4) Investigate whether the effect of ICT usage on QoL is mediated through changes in Social Capital;(5) Assess the persistence of changes in ICT usage over time among the ICT intervention group;and (6) Characterize who benefits most from the ICT intervention. Significance: Depression, physical health decline, loneliness, and social isolation are key issues of concern for older adults. With increasing numbers of older adults going into long term care facilities and declines in QoL as individuals age, we need innovative ways to decrease these negative impacts and to enhance QoL. Contribution: Use of ICTs by AL residents has the potential to meet this need. Studies of older adults are increasingly showing that ICT usage has several benefits, including increased awareness of health information, contact with social networks, and perceived social support, and decreased stress. Methods: A randomized controlled trial experimental design with three groups (n=300 total subjects) will be used. Group 1 receives ICT training and interaction with (a) students (graduate student trainers and middle school students) and (b) a natural leader who is an ALF resident. Group 2 receives interaction with graduate students but no ICT training. The second group controls for enhancement of residents'QoL resulting solely from interaction with young adults, rather than increased ICT usage. Group 3 does not receive the ICT training or the student interaction. Subjects will be recruited in 15 ALFs through the use of general information sessions and will be screened for cognitive intactness using the MMSE. The sample will be stratified so that no more than one third of our subjects have high levels of QoL and social capital at baseline. Surveys, usage logs, and trainer notes will be used to assess the impacts of the technology usage on social capital and QoL. This study will contribute to Objective 11-1 of Healthy People 2010 - to increase Internet access in the home. It will also help to decrease inequalities in access to health information due to age related declines in mobility;ultimately, we hope this intervention will increase independence, social capital, and QoL among ALF residents.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research examines whether an Internet based training intervention can enhance social capital and quality of life among residents of assisted living facilities. As both the percentage of older adults in the population and the percentage of individuals entering assisted living increases, better understanding of the ways to enhance quality of life among these individuals is needed. This project is relevant to public health in that the focus is to enhance the health of a significant segment of the older adult population, it examines a variety of aspects of quality of life, and it is situated within the assisted living environment (an area that is expected to continue to grow in coming years).

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
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Nielsen, Lisbeth
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University of Alabama Birmingham
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Rikard, R V; Berkowsky, Ronald W; Cotten, Shelia R (2018) Discontinued Information and Communication Technology Usage among Older Adults in Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the United States. Gerontology 64:188-200
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