Research Design and Approach

The overall concept of the SENSE-Cog project is based on a growing body of evidence of functional and pathological linkages among mental ill health, cognitive decline and hearing and visual impairment in older people with resulting adverse outcomes on their mental well-being, functional ability and quality of life.

Our first line of approach therefore is driven by the need to significantly increase the meaningful inclusion of seniors living with mental, cognitive and sensory disabilities in all aspects of civic life, thereby promoting their mental well-being. We aim to improve methods of early detection of mental, cognitive and sensory deficits at professional and community levels, and to design and test an intervention to support sensory abilities for the purposes of mental well-being and improved cognitive function. This will be supported by uniquely adapted “patient and public voice” (PPV) and public engagement activities.

Our second line of approach is based on the assumption that, by influencing the level of disability or functional impairment, there is tremendous potential to improve mental well-being. One of the most accessible ways to do this is to vigorously address visual and auditory function and thereby improve, limit or slow the decline in functional disability and delay the onset of clinically detectable dementia. Recent studies suggest that delay of onset by only two years would lead to a 13% reduction in prevalence. To detect and intervene in this complex relationship, it is vital to clearly understand the pathways contributing to such decline in multiple dimensions.

SENSE-Cog’s approach addresses key conclusions and policy drivers highlighted by the 2010 Thematic Conference on Mental Health and Well-Being in Older People, organised by the European Commission and the Spanish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, as well as Mental Health Europe’s (MHE) position paper Mental Health and Well-being of Older People (