Catalyst Awardee

Project Description

Healthy cognitive ageing: Empowering older adults through self-testing


Sarah Gunn, DClinPsy | University of Leicester; Kevin Paterson, PhD; John Maltby, PhD
Competition Sponsor: United Kingdom Research and Innovation
Awardee Year: 2022

From around age 50, people experience increasing cognitive difficulties with memory, concentration, and multitasking. As our population ages, this affects day-to-day life for millions of people. Further, as average retirement age rises, it also prevents older adults from maintaining skilled work. This affects individuals’ activity and wellbeing, and employers lose critical skills and experience from their workforce.

Accordingly, identifying these cognitive problems in older adults is crucial to helping them access support, continue working, and fully enjoy life. However, the NHS lacks resources to assess all older adults for potential cognitive changes. In our project, we seek to develop a new approach to identifying cognitive problems, while minimising reliance on stretched healthcare resources.

We will develop an online-access cognitive test for older adults, which can be self-administered at home to test and track cognitive changes. The test will use simple computer-based tasks which are already individually proven to detect changes in memory, concentration, and multi-tasking. This will allow older adults to independently self-test their cognition, as people with diabetes check their blood sugar, without attending specialist clinics.

The test will produce results meaningful to the older person, healthcare professionals, and workplace support systems like occupational health. It will provide results-based recommendations, such as signposting to support services, or using practical, brain-training and social strategies to help manage cognitive changes. We aim to empower older adults to monitor their own cognitive wellbeing, and to identify those needing support to reduce avoidable impact on their wellbeing and work.

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