As population ages, U center responds
By Dean Neumann
From eNews, April 15, 2004
Macular degeneration, home-based injuries, depression, and chronic illnesses often destroy an older adult's dreams for an active retirement. The Center on Aging is a hub where University of Minnesota faculty, staff, and students are developing new treatments and improving clinical interventions for these and other independence-robbing conditions. The center, housed in the School of Public Health, was established in 1999 with a two-fold mission: to improve the quality of care and the quality life for older adults and to prepare students to live and work within an aging society. Its current projects include creating a long-term care decision-making tool for consumers, training Minnesota's primary care health professionals to detect and treat depression in older adults, and improving the quality of nursing home care. More than 60 faculty and staff from a wide range of University schools and departments, including the College of Pharmacy, Department of Kinesiology, Humphrey Institute, and School of Social Work, are affiliated with the center. Richard Di Fabio, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Medical School, studies how older people can avoid tripping hazards in their environment. "With just one non-injurious fall, the risk of long-term admission to a nursing home is three times greater than for elders with no fall history," he says. Di Fabio is conducting his eyesight research on elderly living in the community. His colleague, Deborah Ferrington, has also focused her Center on Aging-related research on the eyes. The assistant professor of ophthalmology is studying macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness for adults age 55 and older. In the past, other University faculty members associated with the center have developed an Alzheimer's disease family caregiver program and studied the relationship between muscle strength and aging. Aging research and improving the quality of long-term care matters, says center director Robert Kane, especially with more people conscious of their health and living longer. "Here at the center, academe and practice can work together to improve care and demonstrate its benefits to society." To lean more about the research and resources offered at the U's Center on Aging, see www.hsr.umn.edu/coa.