ICT and Quality of Life

sparrow hospital


Shelia Cotten’s research team has led an ICTs (information and communications technologies) & Quality of Life Study is a five-year, three-arm, randomized, controlled intervention study designed to assess the extent to which use of ICTs such as computers, the Internet, email, and social networking can increase social capital and improve quality of life among older adults living in independent and assisted living communities.

Study Rationale
Research has shown that as individuals age and move to different types of care communities such as independent and assisted living, they often experience declines in social capital and quality of life. Other research, including some research involving older adults, has show that ICTs can help users maintain or increase social connections and improve their stock of social capital.  Increased social capital has been linked to improved quality life.

This is not the first study to examine ICTs and their possible relationship to social capital and quality of life in older adults.  However, other studies of this type have been limited in two ways.  First, other studies have tended to be short-term, that is, social capital and quality of life were only assessed at one or two time points, thus it was not known whether any improvement or decline was temporary or lasting.

We address this issue by collecting data at five separate time points over the course of fourteen months, allowing us to trace the trajectories of social capital and quality of life over time.

Second, of the intervention studies of this kind (where older adults were taught to use ICTs), most have been done in such a way that any observed effects (for example, improved quality of life) could not be attributed with confidence to the intervention, leaving in doubt whether improvement was due to the intervention, the novelty of doing new things, the interaction with trainers, or other factors.

To address this issue, we employ a three-arm design.

  • Arm 1, the ICT Intervention Group participates in eight weeks of computer training sessions and five surveys.
  • Arm 2, the Attention Control group, participates in eight weeks of activities unrelated to ICTs and five surveys.
  • Arm 3, the Survey Only group, participates in the surveys only.

This three-arm design allows us to separate out the effects of novelty and trainer interaction to get a clearer picture of the effects of ICT use on social capital and quality of life.

For details on how the study protocol works, please visit our Study Protocol page.

This study is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Study #5R01AG030425, Shelia R. Cotten, PI. (information from http://www.uab.edu/ictqolstudy/aboutstudy)


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