Zoom Storytelling Found to Improve Quality of Life in Dementia Patients

Storytelling provides many benefits at the beginning of our lives. As children, it helps improve our imaginations, expand our vocabulary, and polish our communication skills. A new study finds that it’s helpful to older adults with dementia, as well, even in a virtual setting.

Researchers at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom investigated the impacts of online storytelling as therapy during the COVID-19 lockdowns. To do so, they translated the TimeSlips program into Spanish and into a virtual setting for patients in Colombia. TimeSlips is a program in which participants use their creativity to make up a story. The goals are to bring meaning to those in late life and to build connections with their families and caregivers. The research team’s findings, published in the journal The Gerontologist, show that the program achieved these goals, even when it was conducted via Zoom.


Dr. Stephen Fay, lead researcher and Lecturer in Spanish at the University of Surrey, says, “Throughout the study, participants expressed satisfaction, even modest pride in the resilient creative abilities that the platform enabled them to exercise. This was notable in one participant whose contributions to the stories were mostly monosyllabic until the fourth session and then underwent a marked increase in duration, fluency and enthusiasm.”

There were 32 weekly sessions overall, involving eight dementia patients. Each session lasted for an hour and began with an image being shared. Participants were asked to observe the picture for a few moments in silence. Then a group storytelling session began with open questions and prompts to get the creativity flowing. After the story was finished, participants were asked to give it a title.


Within a week of the final session, the patients and their caregivers were interviewed.

The participants reported that they had a better mood and energy levels after the process. They also had improvements in cognitive functions like concentration, motivation, and memory, as well as a better appreciation for their own resiliency. When their caregivers recognized their resiliency, too, it was linked with confidence in the participants, which led them to be more motivated and to participate more in the storytelling process.

The process was also found to improve caregiver appreciation and to form and maintain social ties.

In summation of their findings, the team wrote, “The online delivery of the TimeSlips method to participants who remain in their own homes is feasible and effective.”


They say going forward, more research is needed to see how effective the online approach is compared to the in-person method. This could have meaningful implications for dementia patients experiencing social isolation, which is common.

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