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Brain fitness centers in senior centers and retirement communities

abIn-house “brain fitness centers” are becoming more common in retirement communities, nursing homes, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) around the country. These centers are usually composed of several computers and a trained facilitator and they complement existing wellness, social and enrichment activities.

Based on multiple interviews with industry experts and program manufacturers, we estimate that over 600 communities in the US, mostly independent living and CCRCs, already offer computerized brain fitness programs to their residents. Not a week goes by without at least one such community issuing a press release announcing the use of these programs.

However there are equal amounts of interest and confusion among executives and professionals thinking about adding computer-based cognitive exercise products to their mix of health and wellness activities. This is why we developed the Evaluation Checklist that follows, to help seniors housing environments select programs.

SharpBrains Checklist for Brain Fitness Centers in Seniors Housing

  1. Early users: Who among our residents is ready and willing to do the program? How are they reacting to the pilot testing of the program?
  2. Cognitive benefits: What are the specific benefits claimed for using this program? Under what scenario of use (how many hours/week, how many weeks)? What specific cognitive skill(s) does the program train? How will we measure progress?
  3. Return on investment: What are our key objectives, and how will we independently measure the progress due to this program so we can evaluate the business case to expand, maintain, or change course?
  4. Appropriate challenge: Do the exercises adjust to the individual and continually vary and challenge residents at an appropriate pace?
  5. Scientific credentials: Are there scientists, ideally neuropsychologists, behind the program? Is there a clearly defined and credible scientific advisory board? Are there any published, peer-reviewed scientific papers?
  6. Product roadmap: What is the product roadmap for this company? What is the company developing and planning to offer next year, and in 2–3 years?
  7. Technical requirements: What are the technical requirements needed to successfully deploy and maintain the program? Does it require an Internet connection? Who will help solve potential glitches?
  8. Staff training: What type of training will my staff need, and who will provide it?
  9. Total cost of ownership: What may be the total cost of ownership over the next 3–5 years if we go with this vendor: upfront fees, ongoing fees, hardware, software, training and support fees, cost of additional modules and staff time? How many residents will likely end up using the system, and therefore what is the Cost of Ownership per User?
  10. References: What similar communities have used this specific program?  What proportion of their residents uses it regularly?  What benefits have they measured and observed in their residents, and as a community?  Is the use of the program growing, or is it flat or declining?

Keep learning by reading more articles in the Resources section, and also please consider joining our free monthly Brain Fitness eNewsletter

This new online resource is based on the content from the book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fernandez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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