Photo: National Institute on Aging (PRNewsfoto/IBM)

IBM and the University of California San Diego on Thursday announced a $16 million, five-year collaboration that will test how artificial intelligence, or AI, can be used to help detect mild cognitive impairment earlier in retirement community residents and other older adults.

The work will be conducted through the new Artificial Intelligence for Healthy Living Center, officially launched Thursday at a signing ceremony and located at UC San Diego.

“About 70 percent of people end up needing assisted living largely due to issues related to cognitive changes that happen as we age,” the center’s co-director, Tajana Rosing, Ph.D., said at the 6th IBM Research Cognitive Colloquium, which was Sept. 18 and 19 in Yorktown Heights, NY. “It turns out today we have the chance, because of the developments in internet of things technology and in machine learning, to actually detect these changes early enough to be able to design interventions that would help slow them down and enable people to stay in their homes as long as possible.”

Paradise Village, a Generations retirement community in National City, CA, is one of the settings from which researchers plan to draw participants for the study, Rosing told McKnight’s Senior Living.

There, investigators will use some of the total funding —  which includes a $10 million commitment from IBM and $6.3 million in direct and in-kind matches from UC San Diego — to outfit the residences of 10 older adults with sensors and electronic devices to monitor their daily habits and behavior in an effort to obtain clues to the way people think and remember.

The study also will include 40 additional participants aged 65 or more years. All participants also will be evaluated by members of the university’s Center for Healthy Aging, who will assess their general physical health, cognitive function and quality of social life.

“This will very much be a collaborative effort, as we would very much appreciate any and all input that the older adults we work with would like to provide,” Rosing told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Over the course of the project, researchers will study in depth the effects that a combination of daily habits, the environment, genetics and the microbiome (a micro-organism found on and in a person’s body) have on cognition. The project expects to model the subtle changes of aging and will use robots to help support wellness.

“Our goal is to design a system capable of detecting very early stages of cognitive changes and to pilot some of the interventions that might help slow them down,” Rosing said. “We would very much like to grow the study but need more funding in order to do so.”

UCSD expects to develop new products from the initiative, and IBM will be able to deploy them at scale, Rosing said. The new collaboration is part of IBM’s Cognitive Horizons Network, an international consortium of universities working with the company.

The use of AI in senior living was a hot topic at this year’s National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care’s Fall Conference, which ended Thursday. Susann Keohane, the IBM global research leader for the aging initiative, and Direct Supply President and CEO Bob Hillis discussed how AI and robotics are transforming healthcare on Thursday in NIC Talks. The previous day, Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, delivered a luncheon keynote at which he discussed technology and the opportunities created by aging demographics.