The American Senior Housing Association (ASHA) has announced a new partnership that aims to use neuroscience to determine whether senior living communities are benefiting their residents.
As part of the initiative, La Jolla, California-based NeuroVigil will monitor the aging brain and collect massive amounts of data from senior living residents through its non-invasive iBrain technology.
The goal, one participant says, is to provide research to operators and industry professionals, such as ASHA, who can then present the benefits of living in these communities to government officials and other outsiders.
“There’s really nothing else like this,” says Frank J. Haffner, founder of Monarch Senior Living, the first provider to sign a contract with NeuroVigil to take part in the initiative. “We have surveys from residents and family members telling us that what we’re doing has benefited their quality of life, but there’s never been a measure of brain activity to demonstrate [that].”
Residents’ data will be collected through iBrain, NeuroVigil’s portable brain monitoring device, and processed by NeuroVigil’s proprietary algorithms, including the SPEARS algorithm, which converts electroencephalogram (EEG) into maps of brain activity.
The program, the organizations say, will be optional, on a voluntary basis, non-invasive, will not require hospitalization nor will it interfere with medical care, and all data will be anonymized.
Among other things, the collected data could be used by researchers to investigate changes in brain activity induced by aging, or changes in diet, lifestyle or sleep.
“It can show levels of depression and various other brain activity, and measure scientifically some of the things we’re doing to show if there’s a benefit to the residents,” Haffner says. “There’s no doubt about it that neuroscience is the new frontier.”
NeuroVigil expects to deploy more than 20,000 iBrain devices to senior living communities nationwide, many of whom are ASHA members who have already expressed their support for the initiative.
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A handful of operators are in the process of formalizing agreements with NeuroVigil, and have already committed to using between 2,500 and 10,000 iBrain units at their communities, Haffner says.
Collecting the necessary data could take between three to five years, but it’s time well-spent in this day of aging, some say.
“We could not ask for a more sophisticated neurotechnology partner to provide assistance to our leading member operators and owners who have invested tremendous energy to develop various cognitive enrichment, nutritional and wellness programs,” said David Schless, president of ASHA, in a written statement. “There is a considerable need to objectively analyze the impact of these activities on a very broad scale and we are excited to be assisted by NeuroVigil.”
Beyond senior living, the data can serve as the basis for other uses of neuroscience that can ultimately benefit the aging population.
“Our hope is that we take this initial science and research and then develop it and expand it in a broader based platform,” Haffner says. “We’re talking about adaptation and integration with various Silicon Valley companies — how you can take these technologies and help people to live a better life.”
Written by Emily Study