What Does Research Say About Computer-Based Cognitive Training for Elderly Clients

What’s the fuss about computer-based cognitive training programs?

With the availability of technology, digital cognitive therapy tools can be accessed by clinicians and clients alike at any time from anywhere. Studies have found that regular cognitive training may help elderly people maintain and improve their cognitive abilities, particularly in regards to working memory (Borella et. al, 2013). Since the early 2000’s, there has been a significant interest in using digital cognitive therapy tools by both clinicians and researchers as they can be used to administer engaging cognitive training for older adults (Walton et. al, 2015). As the use of technology has become integrated into everyday life, elderly people have become more technologically aware than before (Sayago et. al, 2011). Elderly people have begun to incorporate technology into their everyday lives by using devices such as smartphones, tablets, and digital wearables that can help monitor their health (Kourtis et. al, 2019). With the increasing use of technology by older people, therapists are beginning to use technology as a way to deliver cognitive rehabilitation therapy and cognitive stimulation activities for their elderly clients. 

What are the benefits of providing computer-based cognitive training programs?

Providing computer-based cognitive training for elderly clients is easy and effective. Here are 3 key benefits of providing computer-based cognitive training programs: 

  1. It’s cost-effective and accessible as clients do not need to travel to an office to access services. By using a HIPAA compliant video-conferencing software and a digital cognitive therapy tool, you can bring cognitive training to your client’s home. 

 

  1. Digital cognitive therapy tools can allow the therapist to customize a client’s cognitive training plan for their needs. From strengthening memory to auditory processing skills, a digital tool gives a provider the ability to work on many different aspects of cognition all within one tool. 

 

  1. Online cognitive training programs that allow clients to do remote cognitive training can be an effective way to increase each client’s therapy duration and intensity without having to be seen in a physical space or work directly with a provider in order to access therapeutic materials. 

Accessibility, cost-effectiveness, customizability, and home training features within a digital cognitive therapy tool allow therapists the ability to assign tasks and check progress without having to see their patients physically to complete it. (Klimova et al., 2015; Klimova & Maresova, 2016). With the recent COVID-19 crisis, these 3 benefits have become increasingly more important as therapists and activity directors are seeking new ways to provide cognitive rehabilitation therapy services & cognitive stimulation for their elderly clients safely and affordably.

What is the research behind the efficacy of computer-based cognitive training programs?

In a mini-review of clinical studies, it was demonstrated that regular computer-based cognitive training can lead to improvements in reasoning skills, working memory, processing speed, and visual memory in elderly populations (Corbett et. al, 2015; Hyer et. al, 2016; McAvinue et. al, 2013). In particular, studies have shown that computer-based cognitive training centered around memory may be helpful in aiding with the preservation and maintenance of cognitive skills in elderly people (Klimova, 2016). The efficacy of computer-based cognitive training interventions is determined by the 2 active ingredients of change: duration and intensity. Research suggests that for optimal results, computer-based cognitive training should be performed for over 30-minutes per session and no more or less than 3 times per week (Lampit et. al, 2014). More research is being done to identify the best practices in implementing computer-based cognitive training programs for older people, as these programs may help older clients with and without cognitive impairment bridge practiced cognitive skills to daily life (Stepankova et. al, 2012; Flak et. al, 2014).

4. Enrich Your Client’s Environment

What is an enriched environment? For children, an enriched environment has accessible toys, books, music, sports equipment, and most importantly – ample parent and peer interaction. Many elderly people face social isolation and are not in environments where they are being cognitively stimulated. The lack of environment richness can lead to increased experience of stress, reduction in brain weight and size, and decreased learning and memory skills (Mora et. al, 2007; vanPraag et. al, 2000; Segovia et. al, 2008 & 2009; Leggio, Mandolesi, & Federico, 2005). How can you enrich your client’s environment? You can send your client good cognitive worksheets, engage them in Lego therapy, provide group therapy to help your client learn to engage with others, work on social skills, and help your client develop strategies that they can use to connect with others and make friends

Conclusion

In a mini-review of clinical studies, it was demonstrated that regular computer-based cognitive training can lead to improvements in reasoning skills, working memory, processing speed, and visual memory in elderly populations (Corbett et. al, 2015; Hyer et. al, 2016; McAvinue et. al, 2013). In particular, studies have shown that computer-based cognitive training centered around memory may be helpful in aiding with the preservation and maintenance of cognitive skills in elderly people (Klimova, 2016). The efficacy of computer-based cognitive training interventions is determined by the 2 active ingredients of change: duration and intensity. Research suggests that for optimal results, computer-based cognitive training should be performed for over 30-minutes per session and no more or less than 3 times per week (Lampit et. al, 2014). More research is being done to identify the best practices in implementing computer-based cognitive training programs for older people, as these programs may help older clients with and without cognitive impairment bridge practiced cognitive skills to daily life (Stepankova et. al, 2012; Flak et. al, 2014).

Sources

Borella, E., Carretti, B., Zanoni, G., Zavagnin, M., and De Beni, R. (2013). Working memory training in old age: An examination of transfer and maintenance effects. Arch. Clin. Neuropsychol. 28, 1–17. doi: 10.1093/archin/act020

Corbett, A., Owen, A., Hampshire, A., Grahn, J., Stenton, R., Dajani, S., et al. (2015). The effect of an online cognitive training package in healthy older adults: an online randomized controlled trial. J. Am. Med. Dir. Assoc. 16, 990–997.

Flak, M. M., Hernes, S., Skranes, J., and Lohaugen, G. C. C. (2014). The Memory Aid study: protocol for a randomized controlled clinical trial evaluating the effect of computer-based working memory training in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Trials 15:156. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-15-156

Hyer, L., Scott, C., Atkinson, M. M., Mullen, C. M., Lee, A., Johnson, A., et al. (2016). Cognitive training program to improve working memory in older adults with MCI. Clin. Gerontol. 39, 410–427. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2015.1120257

Klimova, B. (2016). Computer-based cognitive training in aging. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 8, 313.

Klimova, B., and Maresova, P. (2016). “Elderly people and their attitude towards mobile phones and their applications – a review study,” in Advanced Multimedia and Ubiquitous Engineering, eds J. J. Park, H. Jin, Y.-S. Jeong, and M. K. Khan (Gateway East: Springer), 31–36.

Klimova, B., Simonova, I., Poulova, P., Truhlarova, Z., and Kuca, K. (2015b). Older people and their attitude to the use of information and communication technologies – a review study with special focus on the Czech Republic (Older people and their attitude to ICT). Educ. Gerontol. 42, 361–369. doi: 10.1080/03601277.2015.1122447

Kourtis, L. C., Regele, O. B., Wright, J. M., & Jones, G. B. (2019). Digital biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease: the mobile/wearable devices opportunity. NPJ digital medicine, 2(1), 1-9.

Lampit, A., Hallock, H., and Valenzuela, M. (2014). Computerized cognitive training in cognitively healthy older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of effect modifiers. PLoS Med. 11:e1001756. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001756

McAvinue, L. P., Golemme, M., Castorina, M., Tatti, E., Pigni, F. M., Salomone, S., et al. (2013). An evaluation of a working memory training scheme in older adults. Front. Aging Neurosci. 5:20. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2013.00020

Sayago, S., Sloan, D., and Blat, J. (2011). Everyday use of computer-mediated communication tools and its evolution over time: an ethnographic study with older people. Interact. Comput. 23, 543–554. doi: 10.1016/j.intcom.2011.06.001

Stepankova, H., Jaeggi, S. M., Lukavsky, J., and Buschkuehl, M. (2012). Pocitacovy Trenink Pracovni Pameti u Starsich Lidi. [Computer-based working memory training in older persons]. Starnuti 2012. Praha: Psychiatricke centrum Praha, 154–160.

Walton, C., Kavanagh, A., Downey, L. A., Lomas, J., Camfield, D. A., and Stough, C. (2015). Online cognitive training in healthy older adults: a preliminary study on the effects of single versus multi-domain training. Translat. Neurosci. 6, 13–19.

Dustin Luchmee
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin is HappyNeuron Pro's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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