ARCHIVED – 2008-2013 Priority research themes

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CIHR established the Institute of Aging "to support research, to promote healthy aging and to address causes, prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, support systems, and palliation for a wide range of conditions associated with aging." Unlike many other CIHR Institutes, which are focused on particular diseases, the Institute of Aging's mandate is the aging person in an aging society, and the effects of different diseases and conditions on aging. Its goal is to improve the quality of life and health of older Canadians by understanding and addressing or preventing the consequences of a wide range of factors associated with aging.

The Institute of Aging embraces a range of research topics, grouped under 5 priority themes:

Healthy and successful aging
The increase in the proportion of older Canadians creates an extraordinary opportunity to empower individuals and communities to age in better health and closer to a state of fully realized well-being, to seek full inclusion and participation in society, and to contribute more effectively to their communities and to the development of society. Research is needed on the determinants of healthy and successful aging.

Biological mechanisms of aging
The biological mechanisms of aging are not well understood. Most of the work in this area has focused on age-related diseases (e.g., cancer, atherosclerosis), rather than on aging itself. For centuries, people have dreamed of finding the Fountain of Youth and the secret of maintaining anatomical and physiological integrity with aging. With the progress in genetics, genomics and molecular biology, it is now possible to hope for major progress in understanding and influencing the mechanisms of aging.

Cognitive impairment in aging
Cognitive impairment is one challenge faced by a significant segment of the aging population. The problems associated with cognitive decline not only threaten the quality of life of older people but also have a significant impact on family and caregivers, and create challenges to health services. The Institute is a major partner in the Cognitive Impairment in Aging national research partnership.

Aging and maintenance of functional autonomy
Over the last century, life expectancy has increased dramatically, contributing to the aging of the population. However, disability-free life expectancy has not increased proportionately. In 1996, Canadian women reaching the age of 65 could expect to live another 20 years but only 12 of these would be spent without disability. Canadian men at age 65 could expect to live for 11 years without disability out of an expected total of 16 additional years of life. The challenge is to compress the period of disability and to improve the quality of life, instead of simply prolonging life. The focus of the Institute of Aging is primarily on the functional limitations as the consequences of diseases rather than on the diseases themselves, as these are addressed by other CIHR institutes.

Health services and policy relating to older people
The existing and future cohorts of older population have become healthier than in the past. However, as one of the major user groups of health care and social services, the aging population will bring new issues and challenges to the existing service delivery systems. Thus, it is important to develop more innovative and effective services to improve the quality of life of the aging population and their access to excellent health and social services. It is also essential to strengthen existing policies and develop new ones that support access to quality services.

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