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Brain Fitness Programs For Seniors Housing, Healthcare and Insurance Providers: Evaluation Checklist

During the research phase before the publication of the special report Brain Fitness Centers in Seniors Housing – A Field in the Making, published by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), we realized that there were equal amounts of interest and confusion among executives and professionals thinking about adding computer-based cognitive exercise products to their mix of health & wellness activities, so we included the Evaluation Checklist that follows.

The real-life experiences at leading organizations such as Senior Star Living, Belmont Village Senior Living, Erickson Retirement Communities and others were instrumental in the development of the Checklist. We hope it is useful.

Brain Fitness Programs For Seniors Housing, Healthcare and Insurance Providers: Evaluation Checklist

Over the next several years, it is likely that many seniors housing operators will begin to carefully evaluate a growing number of options to include “brain fitness centers” in their communities.

Some options will require purchasing a device, such as Nintendo products, or the Dakim touch-screen system. Others will require installing software in PCs in existing or new computer labs, such as Posit Science, Cogmed or CogniFit’s programs. Others will be fully available online, such as those offered by Lumos Labs, Happy Neuron and My Vigorous Mind. And still others may be technology-free, promising engaging combinations of interactive, group-based, activities with pen-and-paper exercises.

Creating a solid business case will help communities navigate through this growing array of options. We suggest communities consider this SharpBrains Checklist for Brain Fitness Centers:

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 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 use 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?

Brain Fitness Centers in Seniors Housing - A Field in the MakingThe special report Brain Fitness Centers in Seniors Housing – A Field in the Making provides an overview of the brain fitness field and four case studies to shed light on the use of brain fitness centers in seniors housing communities, including those operated by Senior Star Living of Tulsa, OK, Belmont Village Senior Living of Houston, TX, and Erickson Retirement Communities of Catonsville, MD. (Click here for purchase and download. $25)

Table of Contents
I. Executive Summary
II. A Field in the Making: Opportunities and Open Questions
III. Case Studies: Senior Star Living, Belmont Village, Erickson Retirement Communities.
IV. Navigating through the Brain Fitness Program Landscape
V. Conclusions

Please Note: if you are an individual interested in programs for yourself and/ or a loved one, you can use these 10-Questions to Find the Right Brain Fitness Program For You. The checklist above, and the special report, are aimed at helping professionals making decisions on behalf of their organizations.

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2 Responses

  1. Nick Almond says:

    This report is interesting and it addresses many very important questions that cognitive neuropsychologists, such as myself have. I feel that many of the products on the market now make claims which are generally unsubstantiated.

    I find it concerning that many of these programmes have been marketed to target older adults in particular without making any specific statement on whether the activities are beneficial and have been supported with empirical research.

    i have recently conducted a cognitive intervention study which used a large array of outcome measures which focus on a number of different cognitive functions. The measures investigated both objective and subjective behaviours. The results confirmed that attempting cryptic crosswords for one hour per day increased subjective awareness of older adults own memory. However there was no evidence of a tangible increase in episodic, verbal memory with both recall and recognition. There was also no evidence of increases in metacognition. It is important to note that the intervention period was only six weeks. However this demonstrates that there is a need for products to be clear on what functions the activity will promote and whether it is affected by any confounding variables. For example we found that the beneficial effects were more apparent in individuals with a lower number of years in education. This is important because it is likely that people who purchase such intervention products will tend to have a higher socio-economic status and significantly more developed educational background.

    Overall, there is a need in psychology for an overhaul of how we measure cognitive interventions. We also need to ensure that we use the correct methodology (i.e. within subjects designs) and that we used the sorrect sample population. Unfortunatly many of the previous research which the cognitive reserve hypothesis and use-it-or-lose-it theory are based on have not done so.

  2. Nick, please see my answer to your comment here:

    Thank you

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