Engaging in productive and enjoyable leisure activities is associated with many health benefits in seniors (e.g., enhanced well-being, improved physical health, decreased risk of dementia, and reduced use of healthcare resources). Despite the well-documented importance and benefits of leisure activities, there are several known barriers which can make participation difficult (i.e., mobility problems, travel distance, poor mood). Thus, mobile health (mhealth) technology represents a viable alternative to potentially mitigate these obstacles by bringing the activity to the user.
Recently, the Baycrest team created a novel mhealth solution, called ArtontheBrain;
a web-based application (app) aimed at promoting cognitive health for older adults across the continuum of “normal” cognitive aging through early dementia. The rationale for creating ArtontheBrain is largely attributed to the positive health benefits reported through participatory arts-based interventions. In fact, studies show that when their mood is better, people tend to socialize more, get out of the house more, need to see the doctor less, and even pay better attention and solve problems more easily.
The ArtontheBrain app is modeled after face-to-face participatory interventions, incorporating three basic activities; learning (history of the art work), playing (telling stories, word games) and mingling (interacting with other users). The app can be played individually (with assistance from a partner, if needed), or in facilitator-led groups. Moreover, ArtontheBrain fosters intergenerational interaction as well as interaction with care partners and health professionals to concomitantly reduce stigma and promote socialization around a neutral topic which is unrelated to age or health status.