Smart Ageing Serious Games for assessment of cognitive impairments

Smart Ageing Serious Games is a 3D virtual reality-based game for early assessment of cognitive impairments. The navigation in a 3D environment stimulates the basic elements of interaction of home living, in a reduced space, which results in a powerful screening tool.

The Smart Ageing Serious Games project is part of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing’s WE4AHA project, that Funka is leading since 2017. The tool allows to ask people to perform tasks related to daily activities and, in doing so, it is able to evaluate different cognitive functions:

  • executive (reasoning and planning)
  • attention (selected and divided)
  • memory (short and long term, perspective)
  • orientation (visuo-spatial).

Elderly workers can experience difficulties with adapting to new workplaces and new procedures, often discouraging them from engaging in new professional and voluntary activities. There is therefore a need for technological solutions which help organisations to simultaneously facilitate the integration of older employees and to capture and retain the knowledge of their senior employees before they retire.

Serious Games in 3D virtual environments that reproduce aspects of the workplace can help older people to familiarize with a new environment, virtually train work procedures and detect difficulties before getting engaged in new tasks. This allows them to receive objective feedback on their capacities in a secure environment.

In the first step, the platform was tested in terms of usability in a group of 1086 healthy persons within an age range of 50-80 years. Findings demonstrated the validity of Smart Ageing Serious Games for assessing cognitive functions in normal ageing.

In the second step, 108 persons with amnestic mild cognitive impairment and 106 healthy persons participated in a single Smart Ageing Serious Game session and a single brain magnetic resonance imaging acquisition, in order to measure hippocampal volumes, which is a marker of downstream neuronal degeneration, says Stefania Pazzi of the research institution CBIM in Italy.

Results show reduced performances for persons with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, when compared with healthy persons, in the majority of Smart Ageing Serious Games tasks.

This is a good example of a fascinating and useful project that makes working with the WE4AHA project so exiting, says Roberto Zuffada, Project Manager for European Projects at Funka. It really shows the potential of innovation in the ageing sector.

Relevant publication: Bottiroli S et al. G: Smart Aging Platform for Evaluating Cognitive Functioning in Aging: A Comparison with the MoCA in a Normal Population, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, November 2017 doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00379.

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