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Tablet technology success on Older Adults Wards

Posted on the 28th September 2017

Older adult wards at an inpatient mental health facility in Blackpool recently took part in a pilot led by Psychology, to explore how technology can have theraputic gain for older adults with severe mental health conditions or dementia.

Patients on the older adult wards at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Harbour Unit in Blackpool recently took part in a five week trial to investigate the theraputic gain of tablet technology. The pilot was undertaken by 63 patients in the hospital due to their severe or enduring mental health condition or dementia. Patients self-reported their mood before and after using the tablet and also recorded their enjoyment post-activity. The results showed significant improvement in mood and engagement immediately after using tablet technology.


The Older Adult Psychology department distributed a staff, service user and carer survey to those on the ward which guided the app choices for the tablets. Staff then ensured that the apps chosen were both free to access and did not hold any patient information and included apps such as Google Earth, BBC News, Youtube, House of Memories picture bank and quizzes. These applications were then mapped on to various ward activities, led by Occupational Therapy and supported staff and patients with their reminiscence work and looking at current affairs. Using the tablets also allowed staff to learn more about their patient’s interests such as hobbies, music choices and enabled them to encourage patients to engage in a way that they may not have done before. The House of Memories picture bank worked as a useful conversational tool for patients who were nonverbal and allowed staff to engage with patients by tapping in to different senses.

Dr Leila Eccles, Senior Clinical Psychologist at The Harbour for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“It was found that tablet technology when used as part of one to one sessions and group wards activities can significantly improve mood, enjoyment and engagement levels in both service users with mental health difficulties and dementia. 

“This is an encouraging finding, as in an acute, psychiatric setting we need immediate effects, rather than long-term effects to allow for a more rapid discharge, to sustain independence and recovery in the community.  The tablets gave us a mobile resource which allowed us to have a more opportunistic approach to therapeutic engagement, improving mood immediately after use and more often than a typical structured timetable of therapeutic activities.

“Both staff and patients suggested activities on the tablet that might help to improve mood. People looked at places where they had previously lived or holidayed on Google Earth and listened to their favourite music on YouTube.

“It’s great to try such a new concept and to find that our older adult service users responded with pleasure and confidence, potentially redefining any stereotypes of technology and older people!”

The Harbour is a 154 bed mental health hospital, which provides care and treatment for adults who cannot be safely treated at home. The ward team is multidisciplinary and includes a variety of mental health professionals. For more information about The Harbour and the Advanced Care Wards please visit