Connecting Elders, Empowering Caregivers

Period of Performance: 09/30/2008 - 08/31/2009


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Caringfamily, LLC
Boulder, CO 80302
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): This Phase II field trial tests the impact of the Digital Mailbox technology on older adults' communication with family members. Previous research has documented the value that older adults place on family connections as well as the benefits of strong family connections to mental and physical health. New technology, whose feasibility was demonstrated in a Phase I study, can electronically link families with their less computer savvy elderly members with the goal of keeping elderly persons in the loop of e-mail conversations used regularly by many American families. In this setting, a prompting service may add value by alerting a designated family member when communication with the older member has fallen off. This family member can respond to the alert by sending messages directly, or by asking other family members to do so. The Digital Mailbox technology will be tested broadly in this trial to determine whether access to the Digital Mailbox is sufficient to increase communication frequency and family involvement. The trial will also assess the value of adding a prompting service. The study will compare three experimental groups (Digital Mailbox alone, Digital Mailbox with prompting, and Control) on communication frequency, family involvement measured within the system, family well-being, and individual well-being. A mediation model will be tested to determine whether changes in communication frequency are responsible for any observed changes in distal measures of family or individual well- being. Finally, a process evaluation will produce data on consumer satisfaction and self- efficacy with using the technology and associated service. Beyond the immediate purpose of this project, the data from this study have rich potential for scientists studying family communication.