Graphic of mild cognitive impairment

Rogers, Mudar receive $4.6M grant to establish center focused on older adults with cognitive impairment

The University of Illinois is part of a team receiving a $4.6 million grant aimed at helping adults with cognitive disabilties deal with challenges associated with everyday activities.

The grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research runs from Sept. 30, 2019 to Sept. 29, 2024 and is a collaborative effort with Weill Cornell Medicine and Florida State University, with Illinois’ share amounting to approximately $1.4 million.

Kinesiology and Community Health professor Wendy Rogers and Speech and Hearing Science associate professor Raksha Mudar are the principle investigators on the research for Illinois. Harshal Mahajan, assistant research professor of Kinesiology and Community Health, is also an investigator on the project.

The funding is for a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center entitled ENHANCE (Enhancing Neurocognitive Health, Abilities, Networks, and Community Engagement).

Rogers and Mudar said the primary research aims are to understand challenges adults with cognitive disability deal with every day, and to identify existing and emerging technology that can help. Three segments of the population are part of the study group: Adults 60 and older with mild cognitive impairment, cognitive impairments due to stroke and those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“What we’re trying to do is understand the challenges that they experience in their daily activities,” Rogers said. “In one study, we’ll be interviewing them about what they do outside the home, what they do around the home; shopping, transportation, health, finances and then just basic daily activities, such as mobility and medication regimen.”

Rogers said the study’s participants will include both the the individuals with cognitive disability as well as their family members who provide support and care. They will be exploring whether needs change over time, with interviews repeated across the five-year project.

“Really, we’re trying to get an understanding in general of people with cognitive disability on an everyday basis, what kind of challenges are they experiencing and how might we design technology to support that.”

Another goal is understanding what this population uses in terms of current technology to mitigate their impairments.

One of the projects, Rogers said, involves helping adults with cognitive disability use Google Maps and rideshare apps, through additional instructions and support, which could include an app on their phone that walks them through steps, or a video that illustrates what to do and helps them as they learn.

Mudar explained that they also plan to engage healthcare providers and the technology industry in hopes of developing partnerships.

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