How Therapeutic Engagement Positively Impacts the Health of Seniors

senior playing the piano | therapeutic engagement

Since September of last year, Linked Senior has been working on a research project (using a quasi-experimental, repeated-measures design) at three of Toronto-based Responsive Health Management’s (RHM) long-term care and memory care communities.

Earlier this month, we announced the preliminary results on resident engagement which is funded by the Baycrest-led Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), in partnership with RHM and Western Oregon University.

The initial results underscored the benefits of optimizing person-centered engagement for residents in long-term care communities. An investment by providers in strategies that are therapeutic and non-pharmacological is not only good for residents, but also for a company’s bottom line. Through our research at Linked Senior, we’ve highlighted how residents engaged based on their current needs and preferences experience better outcomes.

RHM residents participating in the study were grouped either in a high-engagement or a low-engagement category. When comparing the two groups, being in the high-engagement group was associated with a:

• 20% decrease in antipsychotic medication use
• 18% decrease in aggressive behaviors
• 7% increase in social engagement
• 3% increase in cognitive function

The results show that being highly engaged in recreational activity increases cognitive functioning and social engagement, and decreases aggression and antipsychotic medication use. The data is based on a total sample size of 185 residents. An infographic outlining the research results is available here.

These research findings build on a growing body of academic work that examines how therapeutic engagement can positively impact the health and well-being of older adults living with cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Some of the more recent examples of these types of findings include:

  • A 2016 study that found statistically significant increases in cognition and decreases in depression among nursing home residents participating in reminiscence therapy.
  • The authors of this study concluded that music therapy is an inexpensive way to stimulate cognitive function, improve mood, and reduce behavioral problems for those living with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • This Taylor & Francis study found that the use of music therapy decreased agitation, disruptiveness, and the use of psychotropic medications for those living in nursing homes with moderate to severe dementia.

Charles de Vilmorin is the CEO and Co-founder of Linked Senior, Inc., a leading life enrichment platform for the senior care market. The solution improves outcomes, client satisfaction and enables person centered life enrichment. 

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