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 we age, foot problems can become common. From aches and pain to bunions and corns, our feet are prone to many conditions that can cause discomfort and impact mobility. This shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that the distance people walk in a lifetime would take them around the globe nearly six times. Yet, our feet are often neglected and foot pain is frequently written off as an insignificant risk to health.
One thing not up for debate is that nutrition is an important part of overall good health. But that’s where agreement seems to end – at least according to reports in the media. Eat more protein; but all red meat is risky. Eggs send bad cholesterol levels through the roof; no wait, now it’s OK to eat them again. And recently, news about whether supplements, including calcium and vitamin D, protect us or actually cause harm has been fodder for headlines. So how do you parse the contradictory messages?
With aging there are many diseases that may impact quality of life and lead to eventual death. The end stages of Alzheimer’s disease, or other advanced illnesses can be challenging for patients and their families. At Hebrew SeniorLife we find that family members are looking to doctors and nurses to help their loved ones in what may be the end-stage of life. Palliative care, while similar to hospice, is offered to patients earlier in the disease process and provides specialized medical treatment to manage symptoms. Often times pneumonia, delirium and eating problems accompany the terminal disease, and palliative care can help cope with those complications and improve quality of life for patients.
Hebrew SeniorLife’s Harvard Medical School-affiliated Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) is celebrating 50 years of research focused on finding ways to optimize quality of life for all of us as we age. For half a century our researchers have explored age-related syndromes, debunking the myth that growing old has to mean growing frail.
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). This is an area of research with the potential to help many individuals as the National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that low bone density and osteoporosis affects 54 million Americans.
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: