Empathy Versus Sympathy for the Aging Experience

Using Emotional Intelligence to Improve the Well-being of Aging Adults

By Jeremy Clough
April 22, 2021

Globally, adults 60+ are the group most affected by COVID-19, not only in terms of the number of infections, but also in terms of disruptions to daily routines, the care and support they receive, their ability to stay socially connected, lack of physical contact, and increased anxiety and fear of illness or death. As the leader in advancing the methods and technology used to quantify and measure human emotion, Sentient Decision Science partnered with the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Aging (NICA), Newcastle University, and Breathe Happy, an online yoga and well-being platform that connects users to world-class instructors. This research is funded by an Innovate UK grant to help build emotional and physical resilience in older adults who have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

To quantify the physical and mental health effectiveness of yoga practice in aging adults, Sentient is helping this innovative research effort to combine system 1 and system 2 measures. As the leading provider of Emotional Intelligence through behavioral science technology, Sentient Decision Science and its Subconscious Research Lab are continuing to innovate scientific methods & technology to measure emotion for research projects that matter.

Together, the team wants to build emotional and physical resilience in older adults who have been adversely affected by COVID-19. Sentient Decision Science’s emotion intelligence technology is providing a deeper understanding of the mental effects of yoga and the universe of machine interpretation of human factors associated to well-being. Ultimately, this collaboration will develop a remote well-being program called Move, Breathe and Connect, with Sentient Decision Science providing the foundational research on how aging adults truly feel.

“This work is uncovering, from the aged-person’s perspective, their true feelings about the aging experience,” said Cyrus McCandless, Ph.D. VP, Scientific Discovery & Innovation at Sentient. “We’re enabling understanding through empathy rather than sympathy, which is an important distinction. Through digitizing human experiences, we can obtain an objective evaluation of what aging people themselves truly believe is needed to support healthy aging.”

By leveraging Sentient’s implicit technologies for this project, the team is offering a fundamental contribution to everyone working in the field of non-pharmacological treatments for the well-being of body and mind. “As a certified yoga instructor myself, I remain fascinated at the connection between the mind and body when it comes to well-being for the aging population and the global population in general,” added Sarah Brecknock, Account Director at Sentient Decision Science and contributor to the program. “The knowledge we gain through this program will have such impact on a greater understanding of the aging condition, using empathy as a catalyst.”

Sentient Subconscious Research Lab’s implicit association data set—the largest in the world with over a half billion non-conscious associations—is advancing the methods of behavioral science. Big emotion data benefits hundreds of organizations who need emotional intelligence to gain insight on how people are feeling and why. Our combination of scientifically valid measures of emotion with scaled technology is giving important organizations like NICA more sensitivity and greater access to the human emotional experience from anywhere in the world.

Market researchers and suppliers can mention Sentient Decision Science’s innovations & impact on the industry within the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report.

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Jeremy Clough


SVP Brand & Product Strategy

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