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Residents Take a Test Drive With Brain Health Pilot Program

Wendy Suzuki

Getting the first chance to try out health programs and technology is a lesser-known fringe benefit of senior living. But increasingly, developers and researchers consider senior living communities to pilot and fine-tune AI, robotics, and virtual reality as well as diet and exercise programs and memory care approaches.

Inspīr Carnegie Hill, Maplewood Senior Living’s new community on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, recently welcomed New York University Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki, PhD, for a pilot of her

BrainBody Platform, which measures the brain-enhancing effects various exercise programs have for individuals, allowing the design of customized exercise programs to protect their brain health. The pilot was also held at Maplewood at Darien, Conn.

“Maplewood partners with researchers regularly, especially those specializing in the topic of brain health,” writes Brian Geyser, chief clinical officer at Inspīr and vice president of clinical innovation and population health at Maplewood.

“Aside from the relationship with Dr. Suzuki’s BrainBody platform, Maplewood recently established a partnership with Drexel University’s School of Education and Dr. Kristen Betts to bring the Science & Art of Changing Your Brain series to communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Ohio. The four-week virtual series discussed current and emerging research about the brain, mind, and memory and taught participants how to identify protective factors and control risk factors to preserve cognitive abilities.”

A noted speaker and author of Healthy Brain, Healthy Life, Suzuki is a professor of neural science and psychology in the Center for Neural Science at NYU. Her recent research focuses on understanding the role aerobic exercise plays in improving cognitive abilities. Suzuki has concluded that exercise helps strengthen areas of the brain most susceptible to aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

In an email interview, she shared her experience of working with senior living residents.

Q. How did this relationship with Maplewood come about?

A. I had a connection with the leadership at Inspīr that eventually led to the partnership that my health tech company, BrainBody, has with Maplewood today.

Q. What are some factors needed to make such a program work?

A. BrainBody is providing a service to Maplewood’s residents, not doing a formal research study. Specifically, we are providing individualized assessment of the effects of physical activity on a range of brain, cognitive, and mental health functions to help sculpt their physical activity to maximize brain function today and into the future.

I found that we needed buy-in, collaboration, and cooperation from the staff to get this remote testing program rolling. We were very precise about our requirements to get the brain assessments done, and the staff was always right there, bringing the residents where they needed to be to complete the assessments.

The first pilot at Maplewood at Darien went remarkably smoothly. I look forward to continue working with the fantastic staff of the Maplewood Senior Living family.

Q. What about the residents? What motivates them to get involved—curiosity, interest in science, interest in improving individual health, or wanting to help further knowledge?

A. My experience with the wonderful Maplewood residents is that they are motivated by all of the above. They wanted to help by participating in this pilot program and then were both thrilled and fascinated by the individualized data they got back about the effects of specific workouts on their brains.

Several residents who were dealing with stroke recovery or depression were particularly interested in knowing how to maximize exercise to help these conditions, which is certainly something we can craft for them in the next round of this program.