News (March 2007)
Keeping Seniors Safe From Falls Act of 2007 Bill Introduced to Congress
A new act is being presented to Congress in an attempt to gain support for a national approach to reducing falls in the elderly population. The bill, named the “Keeping Seniors Safe From Falls Act of 2007”, outlines many different tools planned to be used in hopes of raising fall awareness and knowledge. With a proposed budget of $25,000,000 yearly from 2008 to 2010, the bill aims to fund research, public education, education support, demonstrative projects, and governmental grants.
To View The Bill: Click Here (pdf file)
USC Davis School Researchers Present at the Nation’s Largest Convention on Aging
Fall prevention, community-based programs and male caregivers are among the key issues.
By Athan Bezaitis
Experts from the USC Davis School and its research component, the USC Andrus Gerontology Center, made a strong showing at the 2007 American Society on Aging (ASA) and National Council on Aging (NCOA) joint conference held March 7 through 10th in Chicago.
Themed Let’s Rethink Aging, the convention, which brought together the nation’s two largest associations on elder issues, is widely considered the most dynamic educational conference in North America for aging professionals.
Following are a few highlights from USC representatives, who addressed such issues as fall prevention, community based programs for older adults, trends in urban aging, caregiving for men and fall prevention.
Men as Caregivers
Shawn Herz, family services director at the Andrus Center’s Los Angeles Caregiver Research Center (LACRC), discussed the special needs of male caregivers on Wednesday morning.
According to Herz, men compromise approximately one-third of all primary caregivers to older adults and often take on a cavalier approach to responsibilities they have not undertaken in years such as shopping, managing finances and transportation.
“Men typically avoid support groups,” she said. “They are generally uncomfortable sharing intimate and personal information and most men are reluctant to ask for help.”
To address this issue, the LACRC conducted a retreat solely for male caregivers this past year. They found that participants formed surprising bonds and opened up with one another about personal issues such as dealing with grief and sexuality.
“A husband and wife can have a healthy sex life for years and then all of the sudden she looks at her husband like a father,” Herz said. “This occurrence is quite common but not easily shared amongst men – a nurturing environment can help them to put their pain in perspective.”
Evaluation of Elder Community Programs
Gretchen E. Alkema, Ph.D. from the USC Davis School and Katherine E. Mack, research assistant at the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence (FPCE), which is located at the USC Andrus Center, also presented on Wednesday.
Their workshop discussed the process, methods and tools needed to evaluate community-based programs that serve older people.
According to Mack, evaluation at the Fall Prevention Center consists of four main phases: the development of evaluation strategies as part of program planning, building a logic model that describes what a program is and will do, tracking process and outcomes evaluation data and the core elements of writing an evaluation report.
“Program evaluation isn’t always the most desirable facet of conducting research,” Alkema added. “But it is a beneficial process that can test how a theory gets to the outcome.”
Maria Henke, assistant dean of the USC Davis School and program manager of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, presented along with Dr. Debra Rose, co-director of FPCE and Jon Pynoos, professor of gerontology at the USC Davis School and co-director of FPCE, on public awareness campaigns that promote fall prevention.
The Center performed four focus groups in rural, urban and suburban areas before implementing a marketing drive.
“Based upon our findings, we decided to promote a fall prevention program that emphasized assessment, interaction, recognition and achievement for participants,” Henke said. “Our public service campaign created a sense of community around fall prevention that has facilitated adoption of behavioral changes and pride of accomplishment.”
Role of Home Equity
Early Friday morning, Dr. Pynoos discussed the role of home equity as a financing option for aging in place.
“There is a cluster of factors that make it difficult for chronically ill frail older people to stay at home, such as accessibility and support, in-home care, special transportation and health care costs not covered by Medicare,” Pynoos said
For people who are moderate or middle income, Pynoos said, they often have to rely upon their own resources and if those funds are insufficient, reverse mortgages are one option that can make it possible to stay at home.
Many barriers affect older adults’ access to home safety assessments and modifications such as lack of awareness, perceived cost and a dearth of experts.
Dr. Pynoos, who spoke again on Friday morning as part of a panel made up of policy-makers and academics, believes these obstacles can be overcome through the implementation of effective home modification programs such those underway at the Fall Prevention Center at USC.
“Home modifications and assessments, when part of an integrated risk management intervention, can reduce falls and fall-related injuries to older adults,” Pynoos said. “They are affordable, client driven and collaborative in nature.
Trends in Urban Aging
On Friday afternoon, Dr. Pynoos participated in a symposium on trends in urban aging and their policy implications.
While most population segments are moving away from urban centers, older persons are increasing their presence in the hearts of major cities, according to David Nevison of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, who moderated the event.
Recently completed research, Nevison said, has found that urban seniors will be a more diverse group in the coming decade.
Dr. Pynoos discussed these implications in Los Angeles, where he maintained physical setting has a lot to do with elders being a vibrant aspect of the community.
“In downtown LA we have more Korean Americans than in Seoul and yet with all the new downtown developments, income polarization is a problem,” said Dr. Pynoos.
In examining these and other issues from a policy perspective, Pynoos suggested that aging issues such as transportation, infrastructure accessibility and housing should be an integral part of city planning.
“I would like to see older people as an asset to future urban communities,” Pynoos said.
Skill Building in Environmental Modifications for Frail Elders
Several USC Davis School staff and faculty members are working on a grant awarded to the firm Innovative Designs in Environments for an Aging Society (IDEA), whose president, Dr. Margaret Calkins, presented on Saturday along with Research Associate Anna Quyen Do Nguyen, Dr. Jon Pynoos and Education Technologist Greg Misiaszek.
Entitled Small Business Innovation Research Grant, or SBIR, the initiative is a major education and training program aimed at increasing the skills of professionals who work with older adults in their homes, such as social workers, occupational therapists, interior designers and nurses.
“We are developing a series of internet modules and stand-alone training programs that instruct people on both the problems older people face and appropriate environmental interventions,” said Nguyen.
Under the grant, six courses were developed. The introductory course focuses on making environmental modification assessments. The other five courses are for different populations for which changes in the environment such as home modifications can improve safety. Designed are courses for people with impairment of the senses (vision and hearing), dementia, upper and lower mobility limitations and people who are at-risk of falling.
“We’re in the process of testing these products at the moment and they should be available to the general public in the next year,” Misiazek said.