Recently, researchers from Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) published an article in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation giving evidence that sub-sensory vibrations delivered to the foot soles of seniors can improve mobility and reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.
Delirium is a state of confusion that develops suddenly, often following an acute medical illness, a surgical procedure or a hospitalization. Although delirium is estimated to complicate hospital stays for more than 2.5 million older adult patients in the U.S. each year, this common condition often goes undetected. The end result can be serious complications with sometimes devastating consequences for vulnerable hospitalized elders.
We expect a lot from our feet. They get us to all the places we need to go, while providing the anchor and balance crucial to physical activity. Our ability to stay active often depends on keeping our feet healthy.
As a newly trained attending physician, I vividly remember several patients who became extremely confused during their stay at the hospital. They were disoriented, and had problems with attention and memory. I realized that something was wrong. What was causing their confusion? They were all older adults and had been admitted for different conditions such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease, and cancer.
One of the defining moments of my work in aging research was learning how dramatically age affects the deterioration of the skeleton. This realization motivated me to perform research focused on understanding age effects on the skeleton. Thus I have spent my career studying the impact of low bone density and working to characterize the contributors to age-related bone loss (osteoporosis).
As we age, many of us will face a number of health-related challenges. One big concern for older adults is a decrease in muscle strength (sarcopenia) and bone loss (osteoporosis). There is evidence that up to 50% of adults may suffer muscle loss as they age and further research estimates 54 million U.S. adults have low bone density or osteoporosis. Unfortunately, an osteoporotic fracture occurs every 3 seconds according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
Before we look ahead, I think it’s important to see where things began for aging research at Hebrew SeniorLife. Since 1965 the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) has been at the forefront of geriatric research to improve the quality of life for seniors. IFAR research has contributed to some of the most important innovations in senior care:
There is a growing interest in cognitive training as a means to help maintain cognition in healthy adults, and perhaps slow the progression of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease in those at risk. Given that a cure for Alzheimer’s appears years away, and with the record number of adults reaching age 65 each day, there is no surprise that that the growth of the cognitive training industry over the last decade is in the billions of dollars.
It was six years ago in 2009 that a colleague of mine had to cancel lunch with Dr. Jue Zhang, a visiting scientist from Peking University, and asked me to stand in as host. At the time I had no way of knowing how profoundly that lunch would affect the course of my career. What started as conversation between two scientists getting to know each other over Chinese food has grown into a robust and productive aging research collaboration.