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Technological Interventions for Loneliness and Social Isolation Among Older Adults: A Scoping Review Protocol

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-08-07
Abstract: 

Background

Loneliness and social isolation are prevalent public health concerns among community-dwelling older adults. One approach that is becoming an increasingly popular method of reducing levels of loneliness and social isolation among older adults is through technology-driven solutions. This protocol outlines a research trajectory whereby a scoping review will be initiated in order to illustrate and map the existing technological approaches that have been utilized to diminish levels of loneliness and social isolation among community-dwelling older adults aged 60 years or older. We will address the question: what are the most common and less used technological approaches to reduce loneliness and social isolation among community-dwelling older adults?

Methods

A scoping review of Academic Search Premier, AGEline, Global Health, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Web of Science databases will take place using our search terms including the following: loneliness, social isolation, older adults, elderly, Aged, Aged 80 and over, program, evaluation, trial, intervention, technology, computer, information and communication technology, internet, and robot. The initial electronic search will be supplemented by reviewing the reference lists and review articles to identify any missing studies. To meet study inclusion criteria, intervention studies had to pertain to community-dwelling adults aged 60 years or older, include technological interventions, include loneliness and/or social isolation as outcome variables, and be written in the English language. Two parallel independent assessments of study eligibility will be conducted for the title, abstract, and full-text screens. Any disagreement will be resolved by consensus and a third reviewer consulted to make a decision if consensus is not achieved initially. Finally, the amalgamation of results will be an iterative process whereby reviewers will refine the plan for presenting results after data extraction is completed so that all of the contents of the extraction may be included in the results.

Discussion

The information gleaned in this scoping review will be essential to understand the degree to which technological interventions influence social isolation and loneliness among older adults and identify gaps for further research.

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Barriers in Health and Social Care Access and Navigation for Elder Orphans: A Scoping Review Protocol

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-05-31
Abstract: 

Introduction Family members have traditionally been relied on to provide informal care to older adults. However, social and demographic changes are resulting in rising numbers of kinless and isolated elderly who are unable to rely on familial caregiving and are without assistance in navigating complex systems of health and social services. Research examining this vulnerable subset of the elderly population, identified as elder orphans, is limited, particularly within the context of health and social care access. The aim of this scoping review is to map and report the evidence available in identifying barriers and facilitating factors in health and social care access and system navigation by elder orphans.

Methods and analysis Arksey and O’Malley’s six-staged methodology framework will guide the conduct of this scoping review. The primary author will conduct a systematic search and an initial screen of titles and abstracts from six electronic databases (CINAHL Complete, ASSIA, Pubmed, Scopus, Web of Science and PsycINFO) from January 2005 to the date of commencement, to identify English language peer reviewed studies of various methodologies. Subsequently, two reviewers will independently screen a shorter list of studies for inclusion. We will also search the reference lists of eligible studies. Data from the selected studies will be extracted and charted by two independent reviewers. Findings will be summarised in a tabulated format and accompanied by a narrative synthesis.

Document type: 
Article
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COVID-19, Social Isolation, and Mental Health Among Older Adults: A Digital Catch-22

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-05-01
Abstract: 

One of the most at-risk groups during the COVID-19 crisis is older adults, especially those who live in congregate living settings and seniors’ care facilities, are immune-compromised, and/or have other underlying illnesses. Measures undertaken to contain the spread of the virus are far-reaching, and older adults were among the first groups to experience restrictions on face-to-face contact. Although reducing viral transmission is critical, physical distancing is associated with negative psychosocial implications, such as increased rates of depression and anxiety. Promising evidence suggests that participatory digital co-design, defined as the combination of user-centered design and community engagement models, is associated with increased levels of engagement with mobile technologies among individuals with mental health conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted shortcomings of existing technologies and challenges in their uptake and usage; however, strategies such as co-design may be leveraged to address these challenges both in the adaptation of existing technologies and the development of new technologies. By incorporating these strategies, it is hoped that we can offset some of the negative mental health implications for older adults in the context of physical distancing both during and beyond the current pandemic.

Document type: 
Article
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A Systematic Review of the Latent Structure of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) Amongst Adolescents

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-04-19
Abstract: 

Background

The Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) is a commonly used psychometric scale of depression. A four-factor structure (depressed affect, positive affect, somatic symptoms, and interpersonal difficulties) was initially identified in an American sample aged 18 to 65. Despite emerging evidence, a latent structure has not been established in adolescents. This review aimed to investigate the factor structure of the CES-D in adolescents.

Methods

We searched Web of Science, PsychINFO and Scopus and included peer-reviewed, original studies assessing the factor structure of the 20-item CES-D in adolescents aged ≤18. Two independent researchers screened results and extracted data.

Results

Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were primarily from school-based samples in the USA or Asia. Studies that conducted confirmatory factor analysis (CFA; n = 9) reported a four-factor structure consistent with the original factor structure; these studies were primarily USA-based. Conversely, studies that conducted exploratory factor analysis (EFA) reported distinct two or three factor structures (n = 4) and were primarily based in Asia.

Limitations

Studies in a non-English language and those that included individuals aged > 18 years were excluded. Ethnic or cultural differences as well as different analytical methods impacted generalisability of results. The use of CFA as the primary analysis may have biased towards a four-factor structure.

Conclusions

A four-factor CES-D structure was an appropriate fit for adolescents in Western countries; further research is required to determine the fit in in Asian countries. This has important implications for clinical use of the scale. Future research should consider how cultural differences shape the experience of depression in adolescents.

Document type: 
Article
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Help-Seeking Behaviours Among Older Adults: A Scoping Review Protocol

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-02-02
Abstract: 

Introduction Despite evidence that illustrates the unmet healthcare needs of older adults, there is limited research examining their help-seeking behaviour, of which direct intervention can improve patient outcomes. Research in this area conducted with a focus on ethnic minority older adults is also needed, as their help-seeking behaviours may be influenced by various cultural factors. This scoping review aims to explore the global literature on the factors associated with help-seeking behaviours of older adults and how cultural values and backgrounds may impact ethnic minority older adults’ help-seeking behaviours in different ways.

 

Methods and analysis The scoping review process will be guided by the methodology framework of Arksey and O’Malley and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis Protocols Extension for Scoping Reviews guidelines. The following electronic databases will be systematically searched from January 2005 onwards: MEDLINE/PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, CINAHL and Scopus. Studies of various designs and methodologies consisting of older adults aged 65 years or older, who are exhibiting help-seeking behaviours for the purpose of remedying a physical or mental health challenge, will be considered for inclusion. Two reviewers will screen full texts and chart data. The results of this scoping review will be summarised quantitatively through numerical counts and qualitatively through a narrative synthesis.

 

Ethics and dissemination As this is a scoping review of published literature, ethics approval is not required. Results will be disseminated through publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

 

Discussion This scoping review will synthesise the current literature related to the help-seeking behaviours of older adults and ethnic minority older adults. It will identify current gaps in research and potential ways to move forward in developing or implementing strategies that support the various health needs of the diverse older adult population.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

System Models for Resilience in Gerontology: Application to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-01-14
Abstract: 

The care needs for aging adults are increasing burdens on health systems around the world. Efforts minimizing risk to improve quality of life and aging have proven moderately successful, but acute shocks and chronic stressors to an individual’s systemic physical and cognitive functions may accelerate their inevitable degradations. A framework for resilience to the challenges associated with aging is required to complement on-going risk reduction policies, programs and interventions. Studies measuring resilience among the elderly at the individual level have not produced a standard methodology. Moreover, resilience measurements need to incorporate external structural and system-level factors that determine the resources that adults can access while recovering from aging-related adversities. We use the National Academies of Science conceptualization of resilience for natural disasters to frame resilience for aging adults. This enables development of a generalized theory of resilience for different individual and structural contexts and populations, including a specific application to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Document type: 
Article
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Everyday Walking Among Older Adults and the Neighborhood Built Environment: A Comparison Between Two Cities in North America

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-12-22
Abstract: 

A walkable neighborhood becomes particularly important for older adults for whom physical activity and active transportation are critical for healthy aging-in-place. For many older adults, regular walking takes place in the neighborhood and is the primary mode of mobility. This study took place in eight neighborhoods in Metro Portland (USA) and Metro Vancouver (Canada), examining older adults' walking behavior and neighborhood built environmental features. Older adults reported walking for recreation and transport in a cross-sectional telephone survey. Information on physical activity was combined with audits of 355 street segments using the Senior Walking Environmental Audit Tool-Revised (SWEAT-R). Multi-level regression models examined the relationship between built environmental characteristics and walking for transport or recreation. Older adults [N = 434, mean age: 71.6 (SD = 8.1)] walked more for transport in high-density neighborhoods and in Metro Vancouver compared to Metro Portland (M = 12.8 vs. M = 2.2 min/day; p < 0.001). No relationship was found between population density and walking for recreation. Older adults spent more time walking for transport if pedestrian crossing were present (p = 0.037) and if parks or outdoor fitness amenities were available (p = 0.022). The immediate neighborhood built environment supports walking for transport in older adults. Comparing two similar metropolitan areas highlighted that high population density is necessary, yet not a sufficient condition for walking in the neighborhood.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Digital Interventions for Depression and Anxiety in Older Adults: Protocol for a Systematic Review

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-12-23
Abstract: 

Background: There is a high prevalence of older adults experiencing depression and anxiety. In response to heightened demands for mental health interventions that are accessible and affordable, there has been a recent rise in the number of digital mental health interventions (DMHIs) that have been developed and incorporated into mental health treatments. Digital interventions are promising in their ability to provide researchers, medical practitioners, and patients with personalized tools for assessing behavior, consultation, treatment, and care that can be used remotely. Reviews and meta-analyses have shown the benefits of DMHIs for the treatment and prevention of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, but there is still a lack of studies that focus on the benefits and use of DMHIs in the older population.

Objective: The aim of this systematic review is to investigate the current evidence for the effect of technology-delivered interventions, such as smartphone/tablet applications, remote monitoring and tracking devices, and wearable technology, for the treatment and prevention of depression and anxiety in adults older than 50 years.

Methods: The academic databases SCOPUS, PsycINFO, AgeLine (EBSCO), and Medline (PubMed) will be searched from January 1, 2010, to the date of search commencement to provide a review of existing randomized controlled trial studies. The search will include 3 key concepts: “older adults,” “digital intervention,” and “depression/anxiety.” A set of inclusion criteria will be followed during screening by two reviewers. Data will be extracted to address aims and objectives of the review. The risk of bias for each study will be determined using appropriate tools. If possible, a random-effects meta-analysis will be performed, and the heterogeneity of effect sizes will be calculated.

Results: Preliminary searches were conducted in September 2020. The review is anticipated to be completed by April 2021.

Conclusions: The data accumulated in this systematic review will demonstrate the potential benefits of technology-delivered interventions for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders in older adults. This review will also identify any gaps in current studies of aging and mental health interventions, thereby navigating a way to move forward and paving the path to more accessible and user-friendly digital health interventions for the diverse population of older adults.

Document type: 
Article
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COVID-19 and AgeTech

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-11-13
Abstract: 

Purpose

This paper aims to provide an overview of the emerging AgeTech sector and highlight key areas for research and development that have emerged under COVID-19, as well as some of the challenges to real-world implementation.

 

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is a commentary on emerging issues in the AgeTech sector, with particular reference to COVID-19. Information used in this paper is drawn from the Canadian AGE-WELL network.

 

Findings

The COVID-19 pandemic has particularly impacted older adults. Technology has increasingly been seen as a solution to support older adults during this time. AgeTech refers to the use of existing and emerging advanced technologies, such as digital media, information and communication technologies (ICTs), mobile technologies, wearables and smart home systems, to help keep older adults connected and to deliver health and community services.

 

Research limitations/implications

Despite the potential of AgeTech, key challenges remain such as structural barriers to larger-scale implementation, the need to focus on quality of service rather than crisis management and addressing the digital divide.

 

Practical implications

AgeTech helps older adults to stay healthy and active, increases their safety and security, supports independent living and reduces isolation. In particular, technology can support older adults and caregivers in their own homes and communities and meet the desire of most older adults to age in place.

 

Social implications

AgeTech is helpful in assisting older adults to stay connected. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of the informal social connections and supports within families, communities and voluntary organizations.

 

Originality/value

The last months have seen a huge upsurge in COVID-19-related research and development, as funding organizations, research institutions and companies pivot to meet the challenges thrown up by the pandemic. This paper looks at the potential role of technology to support older adults and caregivers. Keywords: dementia; technology; telemedicine; older adults; assisted living; social isolation; COVID-19; assistive devices; AgeTech.

Document type: 
Article
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Associations Between Physical Fitness and Brain Structure in Young Adulthood

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-11-17
Abstract: 

A comprehensive analysis of associations between physical fitness and brain structure in young adulthood is lacking, and further, it is unclear the degree to which associations between physical fitness and brain health can be attributed to a common genetic pathway or to environmental factors that jointly influences physical fitness and brain health. This study examined genotype-confirmed monozygotic and dizygotic twins, along with non-twin full-siblings to estimate the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to variation within, and covariation between, physical fitness and brain structure. Participants were 1,065 young adults between the ages of 22 and 36 from open-access Young Adult Human Connectome Project (YA-HCP). Physical fitness was assessed by submaximal endurance (2-min walk test), grip strength, and body mass index. Brain structure was assessed using magnetic resonance imaging on a Siemens 3T customized ‘Connectome Skyra’ at Washington University in St. Louis, using a 32-channel Siemens head coil. Acquired T1-weighted images provided measures of cortical surface area and thickness, and subcortical volume following processing by the YA-HCP structural FreeSurfer pipeline. Diffusion weighted imaging was acquired to assess white matter tract integrity, as measured by fractional anisotropy, following processing by the YA-HCP diffusion pipeline and tensor fit. Following correction for multiple testing, body mass index was negatively associated with fractional anisotropy in various white matter regions of interest (all | z| statistics > 3.9) and positively associated with cortical thickness within the right superior parietal lobe (z statistic = 4.6). Performance-based measures of fitness (i.e., endurance and grip strength) were not associated with any structural neuroimaging markers. Behavioral genetic analysis suggested that heritability of white matter integrity varied by region, but consistently explained >50% of the phenotypic variation. Heritability of right superior parietal thickness was large (∼75% variation). Heritability of body mass index was also fairly large (∼60% variation). Generally, 12 to 23 of the correlation between brain structure and body mass index could be attributed to heritability effects. Overall, this study suggests that greater body mass index is associated with lower white matter integrity, which may be due to common genetic effects that impact body composition and white matter integrity.

Document type: 
Article
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