Aging Well with Independence Using Sensors in the Environment (Aging-Well) is a project using unobtrusive sensors within the home environment to monitor and capture cognitive and functional changes in older adults' daily activity. The Aging-Well research study is a funded National Institutes on Aging (NIA) R01 project. This study is being conducted at two sites: Minnesota (Minneapolis VA Health Care System and University of Minnesota Twin Cities) and Oregon (Oregon Health and Science University). We use a variety of technological techniques to learn more about older adults’ daily activities, including an instrumented pillbox, driving sensor, computer software, and short weekly and monthly surveys to help us understand health and thinking abilities, respectively. This use of continuous, passive sensor data collection offers a promising alternative to traditional cognitive and functional assessments, which are less sensitive to tracking subtle changes that precede significant declines in functional and cognitive abilities in older adults.
Interactive Software for Assessing Meaningful Cognitive Function (Brain Challenge) is a project that will develop and use a new digital assessment tool meant to capture subtle cognitive and functional changes. The Brain Challenge research study is a funded National Institutes on Aging (NIA) project. This study is a collaboration with Ability Interactive LLC and will be conducted in Minnesota (Minneapolis VA Health Care System and University of Minnesota Twin Cities). We will design, develop, and test a cognitive and functional assessment to be administered to older adults using a tablet. Improved assessment tools are necessary for advancements in tracking the earliest clinically meaningful changes in older adults' cognitive and functional abilities, which would contribute to efforts to slow and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Promote Independent Aging (PRIA) was a Veterans Affairs Clinical Science Research and Development (CSR&D)-funded pilot project that used unobtrusive sensors within the home environment to monitor and capture cognitive and functional changes in older adults' daily activity. This research was used to refine the procedures for the larger-scale Aging-Well study. We used a variety of technological techniques to learn more about older adults’ daily activities, including an instrumented pillbox, computer software, and a fitness tracker watch. This project provided information about the feasibility and acceptability of using in-home and mobile technologies, as the use of novel ecologically valid assessment approaches is emerging as practical and key tools in assessing cognitive and functional abilities in older adult veterans, especially as continuous, passive tracking may be more effective in assessing subtle changes in daily activity that precede significant declines in ability.
Just One Thing (JOT) is a free and user-friendly customizable guide meant to enable progress tracking and increase at-home therapy adherence for those with cognitive challenges. Researchers and clinicians at the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis VA Health Care System developed this personalized care plan to promote better patient outcomes, including a clinician guide and a fully developed worksheet. Complex and multi-step instructions following medical appointments can be difficult to follow and frustrating for both those with cognitive difficulties and their caregivers, thus this tool addresses this specific concern by providing a simple, clear plan and single strategy to focus on until the next medical follow-up.