Image of Michael Scullin, Ph.D.; Image credit: Baylor University
Michael Scullin, Ph.D.; Image credit: Baylor University

Older adults with mild dementia can improve their ability to complete everyday tasks and enhance quality of life by using smartphone memory aids, a new study finds.

Investigators coached 52 older adults with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia on how to use a digital voice recorder application and a reminder app on their smartphones. After four weeks, study participants reported improvements in performing daily tasks that they had intended to accomplish, according to Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., of Baylor University in Texas, and colleagues. 

The more often participants used the digital recorder or reminder apps, the better their measures of memory and improvements in activities of daily living. Notably, when assigned tasks by the investigators, they tended to favor the reminder app in week one of the study, but by week four there was a preference for the digital voice recorder app.

The findings suggest that there is unexplored opportunity to develop technology with interfaces and user experience that is geared to older adults, Scullin said. Participants also appeared to like using the apps, he added.

“There is this pervasive notion that older adults dislike technology, but we found that participants enjoyed learning to use smartphone memory apps and were able to improve their daily prospective memory performance,” Scullin said.

“With the help of smart technology companies, we can make great headway on improving functioning and quality of life for families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” he concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.