Research Areas

Disability, daily activities, and quality of life for older adults

Enhancing Quality of Life Accross the Aging Spectrum
Enhancing Quality of Life Accross the Aging Spectrum

Older adults often place a high priority not only on extending lifespan but maximizing the quality of life in the years they have remaining. Yet, aging and the medical and social infirmities that often come with it can have major negative impacts on quality of life. Among these, disability and the loss of ability to do daily activities without help are of paramount importance. It is essential to find ways of stopping or delaying the onset of these declines. However, not all disability and functional decline is preventable, and it is essential to understand and develop strategies to help people with who have these impairments maximize their quality of life and ability to function. Our researchers are conducting seminal work in these areas:

Care for older adults nearing the end of lifeDementia photo

In the final years, months, and weeks of life, health care is often misaligned with older adults’ goals and fails to account for the medical, functional, and social circumstances of their lives. Our researchers are exploring how we can improve care at this critical time, and how to take the learnings from scientific studies and effectively implement them in routine clinical practice. Some examples of our work in this area includes:

  • Research focused on improving the process of advance care planning, helping people articulate what is important to them and using that information to direct the types of treatments and services that can help them achieve their goals.
  • Research that understands and seeks to remedy the harms of overtreating chronic diseases in older adults with limited life expectancy, including diabetes,  cancer screening, and many other conditions.
  • Research projects and grants that aim to help older adults and their clinicians understand and use information on prognosis, including the likelihood of being hospitalized, moving to a nursing home, or dying in the next 1, 5, or 10 years.
  • Research to improve patient-physician communication and address troublesome symptoms among older adults at the end of life.
  • Research to improve policies and care delivery for older adults living with, dying from, and grieving dementia and other serious illnesses.

Improving care for older adults with common conditions of agingHospitalized photo

Our researchers are at the forefront of research on key issues affecting older adults, including circumstances common to many older adults as well as  groundbreaking work that addresses the needs of special high-risk groups.

  • The Division co-leads a major NIH grant which supports multiple projects on improving care for people with dementia, and also leads a multi-million dollar program to improve screening and identification of dementia among older adults in California.
  • Division research faculty are conducting cutting-edge research to understand and improve medication use in older adults, including reducing overuse of medications whose harms outweigh their benefits. 
  • The US Deprescribing Research Network, a national research network co-led by Division faculty member Mike Steinman, MD is supporting hundreds of investigators nationally and worldwide to advance research on improving medication use in older adults.
  • Division researchers are leading studies to improve the care of older adults undergoing surgery,  and addressing the care of older prisoners and other older adults in the criminal justice system through research and policy change.
  • Division researcher John Newman is conducting translational research on how ketone bodies, small molecules that our bodies make for energy when we fast or exercise, can be targeted for therapies to delay cognitive decline and improve resilience in older adults.