Living Words Program

How to Assess the Living Words Program

Below you will find information about assessment. While most people who learn about this program believe that it would be beneficial to any individual involved, it is important to provide evidence to that end. We encourage anyone who implements the Living Words program to examine its effectiveness. You will find suggestions for how to do that below. Please feel free to contact us at if you need more information.

Does the Living Words Program really work? An introduction to assessment.

By Dr. Kara Bopp

We believe that the Living Words Program is useful in three broad ways:

1) It can provide cognitive stimulation

2) It allows for reflection and reminiscence upon one’s life

3) It may help alleviate some of the stress one experiences in life.

We want to assess if the program is, in fact, doing these things, therefore, we need to find ways to measure each one, and compare scores before and after the program has been completed. There are many measures available on the internet that are not copyrighted, so anyone can download them and use them. Here are the ones we are currently using.

To examine cognition (e.g. memory, problem solving, thinking) a common measure is the “Mini-Mental Status Exam”. It is often used by doctors to get a quick assessment of orientation and cognitive ability, especially in older adults that are concerned about dementia. A second measure is called, “Letter Fluency”. In this test the examiner asks the individual to name as many words as possible that begin with a particular letter for 1 or 2 minutes (e.g. “S”), without giving any proper names or places.

To examine reflection there is a copyrighted questionnaire called the “Reminiscence Functions Scale” (See Webster, 1993). The questionnaire is made of 43 of questions that can be sorted into 8 categories, such as “identity” and “problem solving” as reasons for reminiscing.

To examine stress, it is possible to get a basic measurement of depression and anxiety with the “Geriatric Depression Scale”. It is a short 15 question scale. A second questionnaire, called the “Life Satisfaction Index”, could also be used, that has 18 questions.

We have collected data (using the above measures) at the start and end of some of our workshop sites. We have IRB (institutional review board) approval to collect such data. Ideally, all workshop attendees fill-out the questionnaires at the start and at the conclusion of 10-weeks of workshops, and compare the data to a control group of individuals (also pre-post tested without the workshop). In addition to quantitative data, we also collect qualitative data through interviews with workshop attendees. We look forward to sharing the results of the study with you soon.

We would be happy to help you assess your Living Words program. Please send us your questions and comments about assessment. Many future posts will expand upon the above information.