From diaries with a lock or written in invisible ink to calligraphy and doodling, there has always been something therapeutic about taking time and writing down thoughts or expressing feelings. Journaling is not a new concept but it often is lost in time when the world around us just gets too busy. Journaling should not be forgotten and now due to the increasing amount and accessibility of technology, journaling through apps is a way to connect the bridge and start daily journaling again for all cohorts, but especially older adults.
Two apps that have been helping people do this is Grid Diary and My Wonderful Days Journal. Grid Diary is designed to help those who have trouble remembering to journal but want to. It is also for those who think that writing about their day would be helpful but they never know what to write about. Users of Grid Diary can set a reminder each day at their desired time to help them be consistent in journal. Once on the app it asks for the weather of the day, the mood, and then gives suggested topics to talk about like their goals, activities they participated in, a problem they encountered, etc. to write about. My Wonderful Days Journal is made for daily journal entries that are simple to read and easy to look back on. Each day is on a new page and when the user makes a new entry they can choose to put their current mood and then add different types of notes. The user may add pictures from the day to make their entry even more detailed as well. It is extremely easy to look back on journal entries and the individual can even star the ones they want quick access to. These journaling apps are useful to me and other young people because it is a time for reflection in an individual’s day. It is easy to use because journals can be used on the go due to easy access on a phone or tablet. I enjoy journaling whenever I find myself looking at my phone with no purpose, when I have something interesting about the day that I want to remember, or when I find myself thinking a lot and need to write down thoughts.
Grid Diary and My Wonderful Days can be beneficial for seniors and should be implemented in their lives due to many reasons. One case study that did research on the benefits of reminiscence took place in a nursing home in South Yorkshire. Four women and one man, ages 71 to 89, from the nursing home participated in the study. It lasted four weeks. The participants were given booklets to write in each with a specific theme each week such as childhood or work. Then after the four weeks was up and the data was observed there was a follow up questionnaire. After all of this was completed, the researchers found themes within the older adults writing. They concluded that although there is a stereotype that older adults will not be clear and detailed in their writing, the opposite was true. The participants normally wrote more than the suggested amount (Elford et al., 2005). The individuals reported they liked being able to write down memories and feelings. They looked forward to writing in their booklets each day. The researchers realized that the older adults reported journaling to be very therapeutic (Elford et al., 2005). This was mostly found when the older adults choose to journal about events in their life that were challenging. Overall, they felt relaxed after journaling. One way that it particularly helped older adults is keeping track of their feelings. Mindfulness is important in all stages of adulthood but especially in older adults because it helps them be aware and conscious of their mood and feelings. They felt that they could always journal if they needed an independent confidant (Elford et al., 2005). It was a way to communicate without having to have someone present. They could also get their struggles or thoughts about without someone worrying about them. Additionally, this study found that journaling kept the older adults busier and they seemed to be fond of that. They reported in the questionnaire that they felt they had a purpose and task that needed to be completed every day (Elford et al., 2005). The researchers also noted that the journals provided an area for the older adults to pass on their life stories (Elford et al., 2005). They established that most participants wrote the journals with the audience, of one day, being family. Furthermore, they felt that after writing their journal if they had visitors for that day they wanted to talk about it to them. One of the most important findings that this study proved was that journaling was helpful for the older adult and if desired their close family and friends to show their ability in memory. Since both implicit and explicit memories functions become harder with age, it is hard to differentiate between an accurate observation that memory is declining or if it is just an ageism stereotype. This study found that older adults could reassure themselves and those around them of their memory skills (Elford et al., 2005). They became aware of their own abilities in remembering all types of details for the life from semantic to episodic to flashbulb memories. The five participants showed no decline in memory ability over the four weeks but researchers suggested that over longer periods of time memory ability could be noticed and studied.
This study shows some of the health and mental benefits that older adults proved when they were asked to journal. Journaling through Grid Diary and My Wonderful Days Journal can provide the same benefits and be even more helpful because it can be used on a device that is accessible wherever the individuals are located. It can be used in between activities during the day or to fill time for older adults. They should become familiar with the app Grid Diary and My Wonderful Life to have a journal that is accessible anywhere. Another benefit is that older adults do not have to worry about focusing on their handwriting. Hoogendam and colleagues who are researchers at a medical center in the Netherlands, did a study on the what the correlation between age and fine motor skills was (2014). They tested adults ranges 45 and up on the ability to follow line and make specific strokes. They found that as age increased, fine motor skills decreased (Hoogendam et. al, 2014). Older adults were more likely to deviate from the desired goal and participants shared that it was harder for them to write and they did not like the way their writing looked. However, on the apps they can simply type out whatever they would like to write for that day. Although this still involves fine motors skills, adults, the benefit to typing is that it can easily read. One of the drawbacks that Grid Diary has is that the writing on the home page is very small. As close reading becomes harder, this might be one drawback for older adults in which Grid Diary can improve. My Wonderful Days is a little more complicated because it has less organization. This may be harder for older adults at first. It does have fewer buttons though because there are less options to choose from. Either of these apps can be figured out easily after spending a little time sorting through them. On Grid Diary, there is the home page and once you click on a date you can write on any of the suggested topics or start your own blank note. One beneficial thing that Grid Diary focuses on is helping people remember to write each day. In the app, the individual may set a reminder for themselves to go off every day. This is a beneficial setting for older adults because it can remind them to journal so that they do not have to remember themselves. Another benefit to this is that it can create consistency. According to Daily Caring (2017), the 2016 award winning company for caregiver resources, they found that daily routine is very important for older adults. They concluded that doing habitual tasks not only helps reduce stress but also can lead to increased feeling of safety and better sleep at night (Caring Daily, 2017). This is important because these are struggles that older adults might have and taking part in journaling could improve those symptoms. Now that the health and mental benefits of journaling have been discussed, it is important to know the research behind the benefits on using technology to journal.
One study conducted in 2011 showed the benefits that might occur from a technology based journaling in reference to their Web 2.0 database that was created to help older adults write. They were interested in the because the found research that showed that older adults were the fastest growing group of internet users in the United States (cited from Shepherd and Aagard, 2011). This is important because it proves that older adults do use technology and they are starting to use it even more because it is part of the sociocultural forces that influence their lives. One benefit they found after studying the effects the database had on older adults they came to some conclusions about the benefits expressive writing through technology. One interesting statistic that was found is that this form of writing allowed for more creativity because a variety of multimedia can be added to the journal (Shepherd and Aagard, 2011). This helped adults be more expressive and still have thoughts down in a journal even if it was not in writing but through pictures or a video. Another benefit to journal through apps is that there can be more organization and different ways to separate what the individual wants to write about (Shepherd and Aagard, 2011). They can use one part of the journal for health topics, memories, daily journals, etc. This is helpful because the user can have variety and does not have to feel that they can only write about one topic. They also discussed how app journaling can be an effective way to help older adults keep learning (Shepherd and Aagard, 2011). Since technology is always advancing, a journaling app might have updates and change every once and a while. This would force the older adult users to look at the new changes and help their brain plasticity. Like the “use it or loose it” idea, older adults should keep using the different part of their brain to facilitate learning and adaptation. Overall, there are many benefits to journal through an app that include for mental, physical, and practical for all ages and development stages in life.
Daily Caring. (2017). Why a daily routine is important for seniors. Daily Caring. Retrieved from http://dailycaring.com/why-routine-is-important-for-seniors/
Elford, H., Wilson, F., McKee, K. J., Chung, M. C., Bolton, G., & Goudie, F. (2005). Psychosocial benefits of solitary reminiscence writing: An exploratory study. Aging & Mental Health, 9(4), 305-314. doi:10.1080/13607860500131492
Hoogendam, Y. Y., VanderLijn, F., Vernooij, M. W., Hofman, A., Niessen, W. J., VanderLugt, A., & VanderGeest, J. N. (2014). Older Age Relates to Worsening of Fine Motor Skills: A Population-Based Study of Middle-Aged and Elderly Persons. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 6, 259. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00259
Shepherd, C. E., & Aagard, S. (2011). Journal Writing with Web 2.0 Tools: A Vision for Older Adults. Educational Gerontology, 37(7), 606-620. doi:10.1080/03601271003716119
Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–263. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497