The National Institute on Aging has awarded Cornell University a $2 million dollar Center Grant in which Ithaca and Medical School Researchers will develop and implement strategies for improving social integration of older people in society. "The marriage is perfect and builds on longstanding collaborations that have been evolving for more than a decade," said Dr. Karl Pillemer, Principal Investigator and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies. "My Ithaca colleagues and I have identified a number of promising strategies to keep older people emotionally and medically well through improved social relationships. This important and prestigious NIH Center Grant enables us to devise evidence-based interventions that can be tested in one of the most exciting and ethnically diverse living laboratories imaginable - New York City."
The Center will focus on translational research in the social sciences. Like Dr.
Pillemer's molecular biology colleagues, social science gerontology has developed a
number of "basic science findings" that need to be moved closer to clinical practice
so that actual patients may benefit. "There are hundreds of studies demonstrating the
benefits of social support in older people on outcomes that include mortality, recovery
from specific illnesses, mood, and quality of life," said Pillemer. "The challenge is
creating practical interventions based on these findings that can be applied in real
word settings and that are also amenable to dissemination if efficacy is proven."
The collaboration is largely possible because Weill Cornell colleagues and Geriatric
Medicine Co-Chiefs, Drs. Ron Adelman and Mark Lachs, have built programs with deep and
substantive community links to social service agencies that serve disenfranchised older
people in New York City. The Division's ambulatory geriatric medicine practice, the Wright
Center on Aging (http://www.cornellaging.org/patient/wright.html), shares space with the
Burden Center for the Aging, a not-for-profit social service agency that last year provided
support for over 9,000 older adults, 85% of whom live below the poverty line. Weill Cornell's
House Call Program (http://www.cornellaging.org/patient/housecall.html) serves many of their
homebound patients. Last year Drs. Adelman and Lachs received the Carter S. Burden Humanitarian
Award for their efforts to improve the quality of care and dignity for older New Yorkers.
"This is one of the most exciting Medical School-Ithaca collaborations underway," said
Dr. Lisa Staiano-Coico, Vice Provost for Medical Affairs. It speaks to NIA's recognition
of the track record of outstanding research in aging on both campuses, and how
multidisciplinary collaboration has the potential to help many, many older people.