IBM, University Partnership Brings Artifical Intelligence to Senior Living

Big data and artificial intelligence are beginning to appear just about everywhere. And now, research and technology powerhouses IBM and University of California, San Diego are joining forces through a new partnership that will work to provide big data and AI solutions even more readily to the aging population—bringing with them some major senior living implications.

The multi-year partnership, officially signed Thursday at the university’s campus in La Jolla, California, is aimed toward enhancing quality of life and independence of aging populations through the establishment of a new center: the Artificial Intelligence for Healthy Living Center at U.C. San Diego. At its core, the center will work to identify early signs of cognitive impairment and dementia to help delay impairment and extend independent living options for the aging population.


The initiative joins a host of partnerships between IBM and universities nationwide, coined the IBM Cognitive Horizons Network, though it is the first that is specifically geared toward aging studies. Research will be conducted through the help of $10 million in funding by IBM and will target the areas of healthy aging and the human microbiome.

“From a technical standpoint, the world’s data is exploding,” said Dr. John Kelly III, senior vice president, cognitive solutions and IBM research for IBM during the signing ceremony of the new center. “It’s growing at an exponential rate… We all know aging is not only going to effect all of us, but by 2050 two billion people will be 60-plus years old.”

The partnership will comprise departments across U.C. San Diego, including engineering, cognitive sciences, medicine and computer science. Under the project, the university’s Center for Healthy Aging will commence a study of 50 local individuals, including many who live in a San Diego-area independent living community.


“Among other things, we will be recruiting the people who will participate in this study, obtaining consent, and importantly, doing evaluations,” Dr. Dilip Jeste, senior associate dean for Healthy Aging and senior care director for the U.C. San Diego Center for Healthy Aging, told Senior Housing News. “They will be longitudinal, and will include some physical markers of aging as well as cognitive, and appropriate medical records.”

Some of the participants will undergo 24/7 monitoring to determine regular day-to-day activities and baseline health and wellness, including components like resilience and wisdom.

“The idea is to keep people living independently as long as possible,” Jeste said. “One of the reasons people move to AL is the loss of cognitive function… the usual problem is that by the time you diagnose dementia or even mild cognitive impairment, it is often too late for intervention.”

IBM’s participation will allow for machine learning via IBM’s artificial intelligence technology Watson—currently being used in some other similar formats including a recent partnership with Avamere—with the goals of developing and evaluating a cognitive framework for a supportive living environment that facilitates older adults to live independently longer and have a higher quality of life.

Additionally, the partnership is working to better understand health implications of the human microbiome.

“This project is addressing one of those problems [of social interest],” said U.C. San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “This problem is going to impact each and every one of us.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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