IA Strategic research priorities
The 2013-2018 strategic plan marks a new phase, in which the Institute of Aging (IA) will place the emphasis squarely on the health and wellness of older Canadians, building on past achievements. The Institute's activities in the coming years will focus on identifying tangible solutions that will have a real impact on Canada's aging population.
IA has identified the following research priorities for the five year period 2013-2018:
- The life course as a determinant of active and satisfying aging
- Adding life to the late years
- Interventions appropriate to the complexity of older people's state of health
- Health care and services that combine and integrate continuity, innovation and efficiency
- Ensuring the conditions for a positive impact on older people's health and wellness
The life course as a determinant of active and satisfying aging
Aging of the individual
The Institute of Aging supports and promotes activities aimed at preventive approaches and lifestyle interventions necessary to optimize health and wellness along the life course. These activities include biological, psychological, social and environmental determinants of health and wellness focused on the life-course trajectory of aging in the individuals. An integrative approach is crucial in order to comprehend, not only each of these dimensions individually, but also to understand the dynamics and synergies between them.
Adding life to the late years
Over the last century, scientific knowledge has led to increased survival rates at birth, as well as to increased life expectancy. However, living longer does not make old age satisfying. Quality of life and the genuine ability to continue playing an active role in society are essential. We must increase our knowledge of the factors and conditions that allow people to live not only longer, but also better. In seeking this knowledge, we must consider not only the diversity of needs of older people as individuals, but also the diversity of society as a whole.
Social and environmental conditions
Older people's quality of life is improved when they can live in their preferred home environment and have a built environment that is designed to meet the needs. These conditions include physical aspects (e.g. built environment, urban/rural environment), the working environment for older adults and societal behaviour toward older people (e.g., abuse, ageism).
Interventions appropriate to the complexity of older people's state of health
The complexity of older people's state of health
Older adults often face multiple health challenges - mostly chronic - that interact with one another and with the processes of aging. Research addressing these health challenges must include an integrative approach: in terms of basic biomedical research; on the psychological and social mechanisms underlying older people's health problems; ensuring the translation of acquired knowledge into concrete measures.
Neurodegenerative diseases that cause cognitive impairment are among the most feared health conditions of the aging population. The biological, psychological and social aspects, the optimal interventions, the care and services and the continuity of care are key dimensions. The generation of new knowledge and its translation into real impacts must be the goal of activities for this important health challenge of older adults.
Caregivers' health and wellness
The well-being of many older people who are dealing with chronic health conditions, including cognitive impairments, depends on the caregivers who support them. The health and wellness of older people's caregivers are of capital importance. Whether these caregivers are professionals, health workers, or friends/family, their support is indispensable to older people's wellness.
Health care and services that combine and integrate continuity, innovation and efficiency
If the specific needs of older adults are to be properly met, then creative, efficient solutions for delivering the required care and services are imperative. Every effort must be made to develop innovative solutions that will:
- Make appropriate and efficient health services available, including primary care and acute care as well as rehabilitative care, long term care and end of life care.
- Adapt the health care system to older people's needs, so that it is oriented toward managing chronic diseases with services available in their communities.
- Support families, caregivers, professionals and policy makers with regard to treatment decisions and end-of-life issues.
A health care system that is appropriate to meet the needs of older people must support them in their home environment of choice, ensure continuity in their care and encourage each of them to participate in their own care.
Delivering innovative, effective, efficient health services and true continuity of care
If the specific health care needs of older adults are to be properly met, then creative, efficient solutions for the delivery of the required care and services are imperative. Therefore every effort must be made to develop solutions that will:
- Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health services and systems for older adults, employing the most creative preventive and therapeutic interventions, as well as the most appropriate technological solutions.
- Ensure a continuum of services, from prevention to care, are delivered in the context of an integrated, holistic approach.
- Encourage the participation of knowledge users.
Informing end of life issues
Palliative care includes the care and management of patients nearing the end of life, the reduction of suffering throughout the illness and, in the case of family, the period of mourning. However, end of life issues are a broader concept than palliative care. It is therefore essential to create new knowledge for:
- Actions for better approaches (models and programs) for supporting families and caregivers that take end of life issues into consideration in an inclusive environment facilitating informed decisions. These issues involve the various care and treatment options as well as the ethical and legal aspects of these decisions.
- Actions for approaches that make it possible not only to deal with the final stages of the trajectory of aging, but also to prepare for these stages throughout life.
Ensuring the conditions for a positive impact on older people's health and wellness
This priority recognizes the importance of creating favourable conditions so that the programs, solutions and models developed through research will have real, sustainable effects on health and wellness. The Institute will carry out actions in four key areas:
- Fostering a research environment with the required research capacity to meet the challenges and the needs of an aging population;
- Providing evidence to inform all stakeholders in order to support health empowerment throughout the life course and for older adults;
- Providing the evidence to support the best training programs for health workers and health professionals;
- Providing evidence to inform all stakeholders engaged for optimal knowledge translation/exchange strategies throughout the aging process, and particularly for the older individuals.
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