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Exploring the effectiveness of telehealth delivery of a group-based memory intervention for older adults, Self-funded PhD in Psychology.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, September 16, 2019
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Dr Sharon Savage, Psychology, College of Life and Environmental Science, University of Exeter


University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Exeter EX4 4QJ

Project description:

Declines in memory are common in people aged over 50, both in healthy older adults, and people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Such changes can interfere with completing daily tasks, but also increase anxiety and distress, with negative impacts on wellbeing.

Existing evidence-based programs, such as the La Trobe and Caulfield Hospital (LaTCH) Memory Group program, teach people strategies to address their memory concerns. LaTCH is effective in helping a variety of healthy older adults. Despite the educational focus of the intervention, notably, recent follow-up investigations have found that social interaction between group members and sharing were the aspects most valued by participants. This is consistent with research within the “social cure” tradition, where benefits of shared social identity can outweigh other intervention elements. As the LaTCH follow-up study was retrospective in recalling events from 5 years earlier, it is necessary to confirm this prospectively, and explore mechanisms regarding how social group processes within programs such as LaTCH improve wellbeing.

Changing living patterns have led to high proportions of older adults living in rural or remote areas. Therein arises a need to develop effective, remotely delivered solutions for health concerns. While ‘telehealth’ versions of memory interventions are shown to be potentially feasible, the degree to which this technology can support the formation of new social connections requires investigation. Indeed, technology may help fill a social gap presented by remote living, although this remains to be tested.

Project aims
1) To determine the relative contribution of the educational and social elements of a telehealth memory intervention on participant wellbeing
2) To investigate to what extent shared social identity may be achieved via telehealth delivery and identify the mechanisms through which shared social identity may be constructed over e-delivery.

Project design

1: Development work to adapt an existing memory program for digital delivery.

Scoping review of videoconference telehealth in older adults
Qualitative study using focus groups of older adults to understand current usage and attitudes towards videoconferencing
Pilot study of e-delivered program in older adults
2: Three-arm group memory intervention study. Healthy older adults will be recruited and randomly allocated to 6-weeks of either:

e-delivered memory intervention;
group-run educational seminars (webinars) about memory (without group interaction; education control) ;
or group-run videoconference sharing of experiences (group control). Primary outcome measures of knowledge regarding memory strategies, social connectedness, and well-being will be taken at baseline, immediately post-intervention and 6 months later.
3: Process evaluation study. Qualitative interviews with participants regarding the experience of e-delivered memory intervention, aimed at identifying key aspects of the program.

This research would suit candidates with a background in psychology, health science, or other allied health disciplines, and those with an interest in e-health technology and its evaluation.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Dr Sharon Savage -

Information about current fees:

Information about possible funding sources:

Information about Doctoral Loans:

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