Technology and the Elderly: A Clinical Intervention Using My iPhone

Ms. Williams was humming a tune as I rolled her wheelchair toward her room for our session.  “What’s that you’re singing?” I asked her.

“I’m not singing, I’m humming.  It’s a song I heard as a child.  I can’t remember the words.”  84-year old Ms. Williams had been worryingly depressed for several weeks, and our sessions tended to be a litany of complaints that were somehow never resolved despite the best efforts of the staff.

“Do you remember any of the words?” I asked.

“Something, something, they tell me of a home far away…”  She hummed a little.  “That’s all I remember.”

I pulled out my iPhone and entered “a home far away” in the YouTube search box.  Moments later I had the lyrics and music to her song.  I turned up the volume and held the small screen in front of her.  She hummed along, and smiled.  “Yes, that’s the one!  My father used to sing that to me.”  She began singing, and seemed content for the first time in months.  The song ended, and she beamed at me.  “I haven’t heard that in a long, long time.  Thank you!”

“My pleasure.”

“That’s a shame about Whitney Houston,” she remarked.  “Such talent, wasted.”  Then she told me for the first time about the alcoholism in her family, and the effect it had on her life.

Video: Unclouded Day

7 thoughts on “Technology and the Elderly: A Clinical Intervention Using My iPhone”

  1. Dr. El,

    Wow, very cool! Choice of songs doesn’t need much interpretation, huh?

    When I’ m with my residents, if there is a question about something, one will invariably say “Go look it up on your computer.”

    • They often ask me too, Sue, though sometimes they can’t remember what it’s called. One man referred to it as, “that thing where you can find out everything.” I guessed what he meant immediately!

  2. I love that song. At most places I’ve worked at, cellphones were not allowed on the unit/ floor. I would go back to my office, look things up, print out the song lyrics or poem and sing/ read along later. (Or I’d bring the resident to where the piano was… Music is a great way to connect!)

    • I do think it is time that care facility administrators and policy makers rethink the “cell phone prohibition” when it comes to activity staff, and others, who are using it as an assistive device with the residents. As an Activity Consultant, I have used my Android many times with residents, regardless of such outdated policies. “It’s not a phone… it’s an Android!” is my usual reply, to any staff who tremor at the thought of getting in trouble for such a defiant action, even in the name of Residents’ Quality of Life. If more facilities bought their Activity Staff I-Pads or other Touch Tablets, and made facility WiFi service “Guest-Accessible”, we wouldn’t need to use our own “Phones” and “Data” minutes to achieve the miraculous results that technology can now assist us with.

    • C, I’ve worked in places where the residents had Internet access themselves, and that was a wonderful therapeutic tool, especially since I know how to search the Internet, but not how to play the piano!


Leave a Comment