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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