YouTube May Help Elderly Dementia Patients

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The video sharing website YouTube could help treat elderly patients' dementia, a new study finds.

The results show YouTube can be used as a tool to conduct so-called reminiscence therapy sessions.

In reminiscence therapy, dementia patients discuss past activities, events and experiences with others the sessions are intended to promote social interaction between older adults and assist them in maintaining good mental health.

Traditionally, this therapy makes use of photos, sound recordings and newspaper clippings, the researchers said.

The new study used YouTube clips as a means to deliver reminiscence therapy to dementia patients in a hospital setting. Six participants watched video clips related to their social interests or topics that came up in discussion. These included clips of historic sports stars and classic moments from movies and musicals, such as Gene Kelly's "Singing in the Rain."

After six weeks, the researchers conducted informal interviews with the participants and found improvements in participants' moods, quality of life and communication abilities. Most participants also showed improvement in their scores on a standard language skills test.

"YouTube is a feasible means of conducting computerized based [reminiscence therapy]," the researchers wrote in their findings, published Aug. 31 in the journal Age and Aging. "[T]his small cohort of participants had an increased sense of well-being and mood, and displayed greater communicative participation and engagement in the group," the researchers said.

The researchers noted there were too few participants in the study to make any firm conclusions about the therapy's specific benefits. Larger studies are needed before final conclusions are made. The study was conducted by researchers at the Adelaide & Meath Hospital Tallaght in Dublin.

Pass it on: YouTube clips are a useful tool in reminiscence therapy sessions for dementia.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.