A preliminary feasibility study of a virtual mentally stimulating activities program for older adults





loneliness, depressive symptoms, cognitive stimulation, life satisfaction


Objectives: To examine preliminary feasibility of a virtually mentally stimulating activities (VMSA) program for community-dwelling older adults (aim 1) and the impact of VMSA on loneliness, depressive symptoms, and satisfaction with life (aim 2).

Design: This was designed as a pre-experimental case study.

Setting: Virtual for community-dwelling participants.

Participants: Four older adults, age range from 67 to 79 (mean age = 72, SD = 4.6) who resided in the community and were active in a local senior resource center, were included in this study.

Intervention: A 4-week (eight sessions at 60 minutes/session) VMSA program as transformed from the in-person, evidence-based, Mentally Stimulating Activities Recreation Therapy program.

Main outcome measures: Preliminary feasibility, eg, acceptability, demand, implementation, and practicality, of the VMSA program was explored (aim 1). The efficacy of the VMSA program on loneliness (University of California, Los Angeles 3-Item Loneliness Scale), depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire—9-Item), and satisfaction with life (Satisfaction with Domains of Life Scale) was also explored (aim 2).

Results: Regarding aim 1, 97 percent of participants attended eight sessions (only one participant missed one session). All participants (100 percent) rated the program quality as “Excellent” (scoring 10/10), and 100 percent of participants recorded satisfaction as a 10/10. Most (75 percent) of the participants noted that the program was “somewhat” challenging, and 100 percent reported that the program met expectations. For aim 2, positive mean change across all participants was observed in loneliness and satisfaction with life scores; however, there was no change in depressive symptom scores across the eight sessions.

Conclusion: Findings from this preliminary feasibility and efficacy study show the potential viability of a VMSA program for community-dwelling older adults. Additional research within this area has the potential to provide recreation therapy professionals with a virtual program that promotes psychosocial health in older adults. Additional research, particularly with larger sample sizes, is needed to further examine feasibility and efficacy of such programming.

Author Biographies

Caylee Weaver, MS

Gerontology Program, College of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina

Angie L. Sardina, PhD

Recreation Therapy Program, College of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina

Tina M. K. Newsham, PhD

Gerontology Program, College of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina

Elizabeth Fugate-Whitlock, PhD

Gerontology Program, College of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina


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How to Cite

Weaver, MS, C., Sardina, PhD, A. L., Newsham, PhD, T. M. K., & Fugate-Whitlock, PhD, E. (2022). A preliminary feasibility study of a virtual mentally stimulating activities program for older adults. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 21(4), 17–30. https://doi.org/10.5055/ajrt.2022.0270




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