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Posted 12.18.06

 
 
   

Grant to Support MU Geriatric Research Initiative

COLUMBIA, MO - By 2010, more than 6 million people in the United States will be age 85 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure jumps to more than 20 million by 2050, when the entire U.S. population is predicted to surpass 400 million. As the population ages, researchers across the country are targeting efforts that will ensure a safe, healthy and enjoyable life experience for elderly Americans. Recently, a team of University of Missouri-Columbia researchers received a $200,000 grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation and The RAND Corporation for the development of a new initiative focused on improving the health of older adults through innovative, interdisciplinary research.

Founded in 1929, the John A. Hartford Foundation is committed to training, research and service innovations that promise the health and independence of America's older adults. The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors worldwide.

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Marilyn Rantz, professor of nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing, and Steven Zweig, professor of family and community medicine in the School of Medicine, are the principal investigators for the project. The mission of the RAND/Hartford Interdisciplinary Geriatric Health Care Research initiative is to develop and study interventions in geriatrics and to provide interdisciplinary research and training opportunities for new and established investigators.

"While we have been in operation as the Interdisciplinary Center for Aging for a short while, this new grant will allow us to enhance our mission to encourage more research in aging," said David Oliver, assistant director of the center. "Aging is no longer just a medicine or nursing field. Currently, our group includes nearly 80 faculty members representing 11 schools and colleges across campus."

The grant will encourage additional research including three pilot research studies at Mizzou promoting quality of life for the elderly. These projects include a technology research project studying how motion sensors can alert nursing home administrators to problems with residents, a project investigating ways to prevent falls in elderly people, and a project studying end-of-life issues in an effort to improve end-of-life care for nursing home residents and other elderly people.

"MU excels in interdisciplinary work, which is relevant when addressing the needs of elderly persons," Zweig said. "This experience helped us compete successfully with major universities across the country for this funding."

In addition to the research, two graduate level courses on physical and psycho-social function, which are major themes for the initiative, will be taught. Monthly seminars on aging, which are open to the public, also will take place. Officials also will distribute small research enrichment grants to MU faculty. In the first year, Oliver expects to distribute up to $48,000 in grants.

The MU Interdisciplinary Center for Aging was created in January 2006 with collaborations across campus. Projects on aging include TigerPlace, an aging-in-place retirement facility led by the Sinclair School of Nursing in collaboration with Americare; the Senior Assessment and Geriatric Evaluation Clinic in family and community medicine; and The Health Connection, a research, exercise and training facility for older adults operated by the School of Health Professions in collaboration with Stephens College.

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