Engaging Students in Research: Decreasing Social Islolation in the Independent Living Senior Through Technology

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Dona Molyneaux, PhD, MSN, BSN
Frances M Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions, Gwynedd Mercy University, Gwynedd Valley, PA, USA

Purpose: The purpose of this pilot study was to determine if skyping on a senior friendly Telkin computer with graduate nursing students would decrease social isolation in the independent living senior.

Methods: A $10,000 Grant was obtained by the VNA with Telkin Coputer Company. A Pilot study was conducted with 12 seniors and 11 graduate nursing students for a period of 7 months. Students skyped the senior twice a week, Students used their own personal computers and participants were provided with a Telkin senior computer. Each senior received a Telkin Senior computer for their use through the grant period. The Telkinn company set up the computer at the senior's residence and provided technological assistance during the study. Graduate nursing students journaled their interactions with the participantsand also used their nursing assessment skills to determine if there was a change in the senior that would require an intervention. Participants were interviewed at a focus session at the end of the pilot to determine their perspective.

Results: Seniors increased their technology skills though the use of the computers as evidenced by game playing, using email and purchasing the computer at the end of the study. Seniors began to skype other family and friends during and following the study demonstrating increased social interaction. Seniors and students formed bonds and accountabilty. Students journals were analyzed and themes identfied. Several of the participants did not meet the criteria of social isolation, yet expressed positive feedback regarding interacting with students. Graduate students also benefited by establishing bonds with the seniors and experiencing a research study in action. A gathering at the end of the study was held for the students to meet their assigned seniors.

Conclusion: Skyping is one method that can be used to decrease social isolation for socially isolated seniors. Having increased regular contact with students was seen as beneficial. Further research to decrease social isolation in isolated elders is warranted. Quantifying social isolation may be helpful.