Retirement community to conduct study on dementia
Virginia Beach-based Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay is conducting research aimed at finding ways to handle the needs of a surging population of older people.
The first project, conducted in conjunction with Eastern Virginia Medical School and Virginia Wesleyan College, will examine whether customized technology can positively affect the behavior and moods of people with dementia.
Funding for the project, called The Birdsong Initiative, comes from a $228,000 donation by Sue Birdsong, a Westminster-Canterbury Foundation board member, and her husband, George. It is named “The Birdsong Initiative” in their honor.
Westminster-Canterbury notes that 20 percent of Americans will be 65 or above by 2030, compared with about 14 percent in 2012. In Virginia, people 60 and above will represent almost 24 percent of the population in 2030, an increase of 30 percent from 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Alzheimer’s Association projects that the number of Americans with memory-impairing disease will rise by 40 percent in the coming decade; in Virginia, it is expected to increase by 46 percent.
The Birdsong Initiative will run for 24 weeks. Thirty-one Westminster-Canterbury residents whose dementia makes it difficult to participate in social activities will use computers to regularly access content customized to their personal interests and cognitive ability. The touchscreen technology is designed to be easy for seniors to utilize and offers Skype, social networking and a spectrum of content. It was developed by Colorado-based It’s Never Too Late and is referred to as IN2L.
Another 31 residents with dementia will take part in personalized therapeutic recreation programs that are non-computerized. Twelve weeks into the initiative, the two groups will switch roles, so that by the time the study concludes, all of the residents will have used the IN2L computers. At the finish of the program, researchers will measure whether the technology led to higher engagement levels, well-being and emotional function for the participants and if caregiver satisfaction improves.
Eastern Virginia Medical School students and Virginia Wesleyan College therapeutic recreation interns will carry out the daily tasks of the study.