Mental health nowadays is frequently overlooked, especially among elderly individuals. It's essential to recognize the importance of prioritising the mental well-being of our ageing population and to take meaningful steps to address their mental health needs.
This is the advocacy behind Armstrong Chiu and Dr Michael Kuo, both Occupational Therapists with a passion for elderly care, who have been making remarkable strides in their mission to provide holistic care for the elderly in collaboration with the Hong Kong Society for the Blind (HKSB). They have been making use of SenzeBand, an EEG headband neurofeedback tool and a Measurable Relaxation and Stress Management Solution - Galini, a mental training app to improve the mental health and overall well-being of the elderly.
Music Therapy on Mental Health
Armstrong oversees the Occupational Therapy Department of the Kowloon Home for the Aged Blind; he joined forces with Dr Michael, an associate professor at Tung Wah College, (Occupational Therapy) School of Medical and Health Sciences, whose academic expertise lies in cognitive science. They are both professionals who share a common vision of bridging the gap in elderly care by focusing on mental health, a facet often overshadowed by the emphasis on physical fitness. Dr Michael stated “Apart from physical exercise, we need to build strength in the body, but we also need to build strength in the mental aspect”
They initiated music therapy with the goal of providing relaxation techniques to improve the elderly's quality of life. Their programme typically consists of 8 sessions and runs for 45 minutes over 8 weeks, centred around recreation, Canto-POP music activities, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises. These sessions aim to enhance mental wellness while utilising the neurofeedback device to track and measure progress. With its accessibility, nurses at the care centres can independently use the device and app, reducing the need for constant therapist supervision. The app's user-friendly interface and objective feedback mechanisms ensure that users stay on track, providing them with a sense of autonomy and accomplishment. The pivotal moment in their journey was the adoption of the EEG device into their care programmes. Drawing from their prior experience with neurofeedback devices, they recognised the potential of obtaining quantifiable data that could revolutionise their approach to elderly care.
The impact of this innovative approach is evident in the improvements observed in the elderly individuals under their care. Many of these elderly individuals are in their 90s, facing physical and emotional challenges that come with age. While physical therapists address the elderly’s physical needs, Armstrong and Dr Michael are dedicated to maximising mental wellness. They have found that the use of EEG wearable devices as a neurofeedback tool, coupled with a mental training app, provides an effective platform for achieving this goal as it also delivers quantifiable results.
Armstrong stated “The app is convenient, we can install it on the mobile device, and the device will be well equipped in the treatment or beside the doctor's room. We can use this day by day without any consumable accessory” this indicates that user-friendly technology can play a significant role in improving the accessibility and effectiveness of mental wellness programmes for the elderly, especially those with sight loss.
Importance of Human Connection with Mental Health
Dr Michael and Armstrong stress that human connection is vital for improving mental well-being, even with technology. They recognize that many elderly people feel lonely and isolated, and their programmes provide a sense of community that's crucial. They also advocate for paying more attention to mental health in elderly care, saying it's as important as physical health and cognitive abilities. They believe that when seniors are happier mentally, it can help their thinking and physical health too. Armstrong is passionate about making mental wellness programmes a regular part of elderly care to improve the lives of Hong Kong's elderly.
Armstrong Chiu and Dr Michael Kuo's innovative approach to elderly care centred around providing holistic care for the elderly while incorporating neurofeedback devices and applications, exemplifies the transformative power of technology in healthcare. Their dedication to mental wellness, particularly in the elderly and visually impaired community, serves as a beacon of hope and progress. As they continue to bridge the gap between physical and mental health, they remind us of all the importance of holistic care and the potential of technology to transform lives.