Brain Fitness For Seniors

Holy Cow! I could still hear the exclamation used by Dakim® CEO Dan Michel in my head hours after I finished my brain training session. It’s just one of the encouraging phrases he uses to keep you motivated throughout your daily training session with the BrainFitness System.

Dakim is widely known in the senior living community where its BrainFitness System enjoys the number 1 spot among brain fitness products, but until this past April the flagship offering had not been available to home users like you and me.

A while back I was contacted by the company to see if I would test the unit. At the time, I was tied up with some projects for the site, so I sent our good friend Tori Deaux an email asking if she knew anything about the company. Turns out she had been so impressed by what they were doing that she agreed to head up one of their blogs. She told me, “you want to say yes to the review…it’s like nothing else out there.”

So, I began testing the BrainFitness System, a unique brain training solution created specifically for seniors.

Dakim Brain Fitness 400

This system is different in that it isn’t a software program that you download or have shipped to you on CD-ROM. It is a complete training unit that looks somewhat like a personal computer – except without a mouse or keyboard. Instead you’ll see a large touchscreen which is easy for seniors to see and read.

Smart Machine

The company calls it a “smart machine,” and it arrives pre-loaded with educational brain games that are designed to make you feel like a contestant in a game show. It’s also set to automatically download new games and exercises almost daily to keep your training fresh and full of variety.

One of the first things you’ll see is an on screen volume adjustment, so no worries about finding a comfortable sound level. The company also includes headphones for users who may not be able to train in a completely quiet room. (Specialized headphones for those using hearing aids can also be purchased on the website.)

All instructions are read to you, as well as presented on screen, and you are taken step by step through your training by your own on screen personal training coach – Dan Michel.

Dedicated To Seniors

Dakim prides itself on being the only company focusing its brain fitness solution solely on seniors. Every detail has been carefully considered to ensure the system is completely usable by seniors with normal brain function, as well as those with cognitive impairment and even moderate dementia.

The training is split into six cognitive domains:

  • Short Term Memory
  • Long Term Memory
  • Language
  • Calculation
  • Visuospatial-Orientation
  • Critical Thinking

The company concentrates on making brain training fun for seniors. Each session takes about 20 minutes and moves swiftly through a seemingly unending variety of games, exercises and quizzes. The questions, video, photos and music used in your training are senior specific with heavy cultural and generational influences.

After a few days of testing the machine I asked a friend who is around my age to sit through a session. (For those of you new to the blog, I’m in my 30s.)

I do a lot of brain training. I’m committed to consistent, challenging brain exercise, but I also realize most people aren’t. Many of you reading this have never tried any type of brain training programs, so I wanted to test the unit with the same type of user.

She sat down and was able to begin training immediately. The system is extremely intuitive and does not require special instructions to use.

Her first reaction? “This is fun!” and then as she progressed, “I love this!”

I watched her move through the exercises which were clearly challenging but not overly difficult.

She was also a fan of Dan’s “Holy Cows” and lit up when she did well enough to earn one. When she finished training she told me, “It makes my brain work without making me feel like an idiot.”

I thought that sentence was important to share even though my friend and I aren’t part of the product’s target age market.

What I’ve learned about brain training is that there is no “one size fits all” solution. I’ve tested some excellent products during the life of this blog and I can easily assign each one to a particular age range/personality type.

One of the problems with some of the software on the market is that the training can be hard, tedious and repetitive.

Personally, I want a bootcamp type of workout. If I’m going to take time out of my day to do this, then I want to get straight to work and get results as soon as possible.

You may be the type who wants something more casual…more fun. You may be put off by the difficulty and stop training altogether – and that’s what we want to prevent.

That’s another place where Dakim has really succeeded.

The system is designed so that you do not feel inadequate or frustrated during your training. In fact it is so sophisticated that it adjusts its level of difficulty in real time – while you’re training. This technology was developed to give users enough of a challenge without causing them to become discouraged and give up.

Dan is your “personal cheerleader” as the website states, and I found him to be a comforting and fun addition to the sessions. You actually feel as if you have a friend coaching you through the program, and I imagine his enthusiastic encouragement is a boost to users who live alone or have little social interaction.

Mom and Dad Would Love This

While working with the unit, I kept thinking how much my parents would love it. There was just one thing that kept me from having one shipped out to them – the price.

The BrainFitness System is a fantastic machine. It went way beyond my expectations, but without some kind of health insurance coverage (currently the system is not covered here in the U.S.), the price is out of reach for many potential users.

So, I emailed the company with my concerns fully expecting the typical PR canned response. Instead, when I opened the email I was told that Dan Michel wanted to hop on the phone with me so he could personally answer my questions.

Dan’s not just the CEO of the company. He told me that he founded Dakim after caring for his father who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Back in 1997 there weren’t a great deal of “mental stimulation” tools for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients, so Dan began building them from scratch.

He asked himself, “what can I do to make my dad smile as well as exercise his brain?”

Below is a photo of Dan’s dad testing out one of his earlier creations.

Dans Dad

He soon realized a computer based solution was needed and he and co-founder Jerry Robinson went on to develop the BrainFitness System.

Dan is incredibly passionate, driven, but most importantly to me – approachable. We spent about an hour on the phone, and despite being under the weather, he was both candid and energetic.

The brain training products currently on the market have prices ranging from under $10 a month for a subscription service on up to a one time fee of several hundred dollars.

As impressed as I was with his product, I wanted to understand the pricing – $2,299 with a $19.95 monthly subscription fee.

Dakim has a unique challenge in that they created a product exclusively for seniors. According to a 2004 Pew study, only 22% of Americans aged 65 or older accessed the internet. So, in a market where most of your potential customers have never used a computer, how do you introduce them to computer based brain training?

Dan told me that they designed the unit to be non-threatening. They took away the mouse and keyboard and replaced them with a large, well lit touch screen. Once connected to the internet, a user would only have to press the on/off button in order to use the system.

“Be respectful of seniors. We can’t ask them to adapt to our technology. We need to adapt to them.” -Dan Michel

The unit also self diagnoses and updates itself automatically so the user never has to fuss with maintenance. This kind of “easy technology” ensures that seniors continue training without quitting due to a hardware or software problem.

The BrainFitness System is really unlike anything else on the market. It costs more because it does more.

It is a complete, stand alone solution that is constantly being updated and optimized. It is not meant to be used for a short while and then thrown away. Instead it was created to provide many years of scientifically developed training.

Dan told me this is his gift to his father. He said, “This is love.” After using the product and getting to know the company, I think his father would be extremely proud.

Likes

  • Fun but still challenging
  • Very easy to use
  • Personal onscreen coach
  • Constantly updated variety of games and exercises

Dislikes

  • Requires high speed internet connection
  • Pricey
  • No pause button (The units are equipped with a green button so you can pause training if the phone or doorbell rings, but it’s not active yet. The company told me they are in the testing phase and it will be activated soon.)

 

Photos: 1) ©Erin Matlock 2) ©Dakim, Inc

Erin Matlock About the author, Erin Matlock
Erin Matlock is the CEO of Brain Pages, Inc, a media company specializing in the promotion of brain focused resources and professionals. Along with heading up BRAIN PAGES, the company's brain friendly directory and online community, she serves as Founder and Editor in Chief of BrainTraining101.com and TheBrainChannel.com.

5 Comments On This Post

  1. I have seen seniors use your device and believe it is excellent. Only one problem — seniors need light, and contrast. Many seniors have fading eyesight and low vision. Much of the teaching/testing/training I have seen in your program is light colors – light blue, light pink, light green…. these do not have good contrast for seniors. Pink on light blue is NOT good contrast. High contrast is a dark color with light — black and white is the best contrast, especially if the person has a diagnosed condition, as many do. It may not seem as pretty for the design people but it is much more ‘user friendly’ for seniors — whether they do or do not have vision loss. Do consider this in your next version!!!

    Reply
  2. Brain fitness is quickly becoming a very important part of preventing memory loss, which I like. Doing these types of activities and keeping up with the many brain challenges out there help to prevent memory loss. We have come a long way already.

    Reply
  3. Erin – Nice comprehensive article. All the new brain fitness programs can seem a bit daunting and you do a great job of explaining how it all works.

    Reply
  4. Hi Linda!

    Thanks for the lovely comment. I checked out your blog, and you cover some very interesting topics. It really is an exciting time with the brain fitness market exploding.

    I hope to see you back!

    :-)

    Erin

    Reply
  5. Interesting. I look forward to following your information and reviews in regards to brain exercises. Working with seniors and being a senior myself I believe in taking advantage of products and ideas that help seniors maintain their independence. Thanks…L
    .-= Linda Buroker´s last blog ..The Eyes Have It: Senior Eye Concerns =-.

    Reply

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