Mayo Clinic creates Healthy Aging and Independent Living Lab

The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation is collaborating with Mayo Clinic's Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and the Charter House, a continuing care retirement community in Rochester, Minn., in creating the Healthy Aging and Independent Living (HAIL) Lab to support aging in place — helping seniors remain at home, healthy and independent.

The HAIL Lab will be a place for focus groups, as well as for designing, prototyping, and piloting new services and technologies, with voluntary participation from Charter House residents and other community agencies.

"Physical medicine and rehabilitation is the discipline that centers on restoring and improving physical function," says researcher Nathan K. LeBrasseur, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who holds joint appointments in the departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Physiology and Biomedical Engineering. "Functional decline is a major threat to independence and aging in place, and thus, PM&R staff at Mayo Clinic are keen to participate in the research efforts and mission of HAIL."

The HAIL Lab will be supported by a consortium of organizations that provide strategy, expertise and financial support. "The goal of the HAIL Lab is to understand the needs of seniors and to develop products and services that will help them live longer, more independent lives," says Nicholas F. LaRusso, M.D., medical director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation in Rochester, Minn.

HAIL is a unique living laboratory embedded within a continuous care retirement community to experiment with opportunities to promote independence and healthy aging. The lab is located in the Charter House, a residence of more than 300 older individuals, and occupies 4,300 square feet of space that includes four separate apartments. At present, work in the HAIL Lab is centered on three experimental zones:

The living environment

Aging populations need an environment that promotes health and safety and sustains independence. In this zone, Mayo researchers will explore the use of technology in aging environments, such as remote physiological monitoring, and study risks in the living environment in order to identify services that improve daily life.

Transitions

Transitions between dependent and independent environments require careful preparation and planning for both patient and caregiver. In this zone, Mayo researchers will investigate assessment tools to determine who is able to transition and who is at high risk and create and pilot services that respond to the anticipated needs during transition.

Caregiver support and education

Caregivers need education about caring for their loved ones and for themselves. In this zone, Mayo researchers will explore different learning styles and levels of caregiver support. They will also work to understand how observation and learning by doing are effective methods of learning and investigate caregiver support around patients with conditions that are common in the aging population.