Abstract: Healthy Brain Initiative for Older Adults (HBIOA): Music Training and Social Engagement (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Healthy Brain Initiative for Older Adults (HBIOA): Music Training and Social Engagement

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Liberty Ballroom J, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Suk-hee Kim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Northern Kentucky University, KY
Catherine Schneider, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Research Associate, New York University, NY
Background: The number of older adults and consequently the number of older adults living with cognitive impairment is increasing rapidly. No pharmacological interventions have been successful at mitigating the effects or curing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Social stimulation and participation in cognitively stimulating and challenging activities are two modifiable lifestyle factors shown to effect cognitive ability during aging. Social interaction and music training has been shown to reduce dementia incidence. These specific interventions were used due to evidence showing the risk of loneliness and social isolation to our health are similar and in some cases more detrimental than smoking and being obese. Music training and social engagement were used as they are effect ways to challenge the brain due as music lesson utilizing cognitive, motor and multiple sensory systems simultaneously in particular.

Methods: The current study developed an intervention for cognitively healthy older adults in a nursing home setting to complete a socialization stimulation through a digital storytelling exercise and music training through keyboard lessons. The music training group was compared to and through the socialization group and a control group. Fifteen participants, 65 years of age or older, were recruited in each group (music, socialization, control). Participants were screened for cognitive impairment before the intervention, using the MoCA, to ensure they met inclusion criteria. Participants who met inclusion criteria were tested before, during, and after the intervention using the CLOX screening, used to test executive cognitive functioning older adults.

Results: Using noninvasive and the non-pharmacological nature of the intervention include cost effectiveness and absence of side effects, there preliminary results showed that music training and social engagement were cognitively stimulating and challenging activities that can be used as methods to control level of cognitive challenge. The research showed music has the potential to be a promising beneficial cognitive training method for aging individuals also, to protect them from cognitive decline. 

Conclusions and Implications: Cognitive impairment has profound financial implications for our economy and health care system. The findings suggest that assessing healthy cognitive aging within social work, gerontology and any other related field in health are most needed to capture and further assess the effectiveness of many preventions and interventions for healthy brain aging. Future studies could examine not only the music and social engagement interventions but also take into account cultural characteristic for race and ethnic group. Assessing cognitive impairment is essential for social workers in both research and practice including clinical contexts.

This research is currently funded by the Korean American Social Work Educators Association (KASWEA) Junior Faculty Seed Grant affiliated by Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and Institute for Health Innovation Faculty Fellow Branch Award 2019.