optimizing the mentaL health and resiliencE of older Adults that haVe lost thEir spouSe via blended, online therapy
The main objective of the LEAVES project is to develop an online self-help program, LEAVES, that supports older adults who lost their spouse in their grief journey. This includes supporting the acceptance of the loss and the restoration and adaptation to the new life situation without the parter, two key aspects of grief work. Specifically, LEAVES is intended to provide older adults with learning experiences and information on topics such as common grief reactions, prolonged grief and an assessment of the mourners' current situation. Some chapters will help the mourner to process the experience of the loss itself as well as pain and grief directly. However, the focus of this program is the exploration of new ways to care for oneself and to foster positive feelings and thoughts. Ultimately, this program will help older adults to find new strengths and new ways to make themselves feel more cheerful, comfortable, and active. In other words, [country's program name] will help mouners to find new meaning and hope in their lifes and to adapt to the new life situation.
In the initial phase of the project, the LEAVES team has developed a service model for the LEAVES service that explains how the older adults start using it and what the roles of care professionals will be. This was done together with older adults, care professionals, and informal carers. At the same time, we developed the self-help program that is guided by a Virtual Agent named SOL (a virtual abstract conversational entity). SOL will support the navigation in the self-help program, guiding users from readings and exercises to wrap-up reflections and self-assessment of the users' mood. This self-assessment monitors the change of difficult feelings and the progress while using LEAVES. Furthermore, the program will remind users of their best strategies to feel better and, if needed, their own channels to seek for further support, such as close friends or their general practitioner. In the second stage of the project, the resulting technology will be implemented in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Portugal and tested for effects on grief, loneliness and depressive symptoms. An important topic is also whether or not older adults like using LEAVES, why they like it and what can be improved. At the same time, the LEAVES partners will develop means to bring the service to the market. This will be different for each country, as bereavement support and financing structures are different per country. All the while, we are sharing our scientific findings and publish results in popular media. You can see the News page to know more details on that.
Expected results and impact
The LEAVES project hopes to have positive impact in older adults' wellbeing, for example by decreasing grief and loneliness and thus also preventing prolonged grief. At the end of the project, we aim to have at least three opportunities for exploitation, whereby a preferred supplier (a large company or organizations focused on psychiatric care) for the service for each country is present in the consortium. It is also a goal of LEAVES project to have a marketable product, LEAVES ready by the end of the project and to expand and update the self-help program with personalization features in the years that follow.