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Medical Symbol Vector

Credit: vectorportal, Flickr

For a significant number of caregivers, their religion is intrinsically tied to their practice. For others, spiritual concerns arise from the patients seeking solace.  The University of Chicago, a world renowned medical institute, has created a Program on Medicine and Religion, a unique blend of theology and clinical care. From May 23 – May 25, 2012 the program held a conference in Chicago, USA, “Responding to the Call of the Sick: Religious Traditions and Health Professions Today”, much of which touched on palliative and hospice care.

The conference sought to reach a wide audience including physicians, nurses, clinical care professionals, scholars and other health care experts on an array of topics within religion, ethics, science and the practice of care.  Speakers came from around the world including Israel, Jordan, and Malaysia.

While addressing contemplations of the interplay between religion and medicine from a more academic perspective, the conference did surface some important questions for practitioners to consider: how do we balance practical care and faith?  How should caregivers respond to address spiritual concerns of patients?  These questions can help caregivers be more knowledgeable about how their work can affect their patient and equip them for challenges they may face in their work.

While we may not have the answers, Manya A. Brachear, a Chicago Tribune Reporter, shares experiences of caregivers’ contact with spirituality in their practice. The program’s latest project, titled Project on a Good Physician, will take on the moral and ethical questions of what makes a good physician. 

Please share your experiences and insights as well, right here on our blog.

Recently, a law professor in Iowa has been encouraging nursing homes in the U.S. to extend their policies to allow residents to have pets. She has also been pushing for state legislation that would ease the ability for elders to move into their new homes with their furry friends.  The professor points to several studies that indicate the benefit of pets on the aging.

Feeding the dog

[Credit: Ed Yourdon]

According to such studies, pets have a very positive effect on the elderly:

1) Pets lower blood pressure and pulse rate
2) Patients with pets have 21% fewer visits to the doctor
3) Pets decrease depression and feelings of loneliness
4) They enhance social opportunities
5) Allow seniors to become more active
6) Pets offer affection and love
7) Pets ease bereavement of a loved one
8) Allow seniors to take better care of themselves
9) Provide a sense of security

Though a majority of aging care facilities still prohibit pets to make the transition with their owners, and reasonably so – some elders are too frail to take care of the pets, residents may have allergies that caregivers want to avoid, pets can carry illnesses, and facilities may not want to be burdened by the extra expense pets bring – the effects of these studies are touching hearts and catching on.

There are many options out there for promoting the use of pets in nursing-home care while maintaining the balance of your aging care community, and countries around the world are seeing the benefits:

Therapy Dogs International, a volunteer-based organization offers dogs as therapy by visiting nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities as needed.

In Scotland, an experimental program by Alzheimer’s Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled has been training dogs to help people with dementia.  The program will take affect this September with the aim of helping dementia patients maintain their routine and provide social benefits.

In Australia, the Center for Companion Health at The University of Queensland has been conducting research through clinical studies by bringing pets into hospitals and clinics.

In Japan, pets are quickly starting to outnumber people. Birth rates have been on a decline in Japan for several decades, and the aging community has found relief from loneliness in the companionship of pets.  Previously considered outdoor creatures, the Japanese are starting to welcome pets as one of the family, indoors.

Is this a growing trend in nursing homes and living facilities around the world or is it losing speed? Please share your experiences and stories of therapy pets in your region.

Dr. Robyn Stone, a leading international authority on aging and long-term care policy, is the Senior Vice President for Research at LeadingAge where she oversees the organization’s Center for Applied Research.   Much of the Center’s work over the past decade has focused on examining the potential for linking affordable senior housing with services to support “aging in place” strategies and more efficient delivery of Medicare and Medicaid-funded services. We sat down with Dr. Stone to discuss IAHSA’s first Affordable Housing with Services Tour upcoming in September 10 – 15, 2012.

You will be hosting IAHSA’s Study Tour in Boston and Vermont – why did you decide on these locations?

Dr. Robyn Stone

Dr. Robyn Stone [Credit: LeadingAge]

The senior housing providers in these states are engaging in particularly innovative efforts to link housing with services.  They are also operating in states—Massachusetts and Vermont—that are experimenting with better ways to coordinate care for the elderly population, have a track record of paying attention to the holistic needs of their aging communities,  and  are very supportive of the role of housing in facilitating successful implementation of these programs.  Tour participants will have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what it takes to make these programs work at both the operational and policy levels and how they might replicate such programs in their own communities.

Who will benefit the most from this tour?

Senior housing providers–both those serving low and higher income older adults—stand to benefit greatly from this tour.  Service providers who are interested in partnering with senior housing should also take advantage of this tour.  The tour is designed to help housing operators/managers and service providers better understand what is possible in designing programs that will assist low and modest income elders to age successfully in their communities, to remain functionally independent for as long as possible, to avoid expensive and inappropriate ER and hospital visits and to manage their chronic illnesses in their apartments.  This tour will particularly benefit people who are interested in maximizing their resources and developing sustainable partnerships in their communities.

What do you think the international community can gain from this and other tours?

Despite policy and regulatory differences across countries, all countries are attempting to implement aging-in-place strategies for low and modest income older adults that are cost effective and that ensure resident quality of care and quality of life.  This tour provides an opportunity to see innovative programs in action and to share experiences with other colleagues who may provide new insights into how to effectively link housing with services.

There is nothing like seeing operating programs, particularly in the fall, when the leaves are turning beautiful colors in the Northeastern region of the United States!

How can this tour help you in your efforts to deliver better housing and services to the world’s growing elderly population?

This tour will provide important new insights into how affordable senior housing can be an effective platform for integrating services that meet the holistic needs of low and modest income older adults. This includes how to develop more effective and sustainable partnerships at the community level, how to creatively use existing resources and how to attract new sources of financing which are essential to the long-term viability of these programs.

To learn more about the tour, please visit or register here.  You can read more about Dr. Stone’s and the Center’s work at .

        Today, May 21, 2012, University of Adelaide is launching the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre (APMRC) focused on developing a sustainable population and workforce strategy for Asia Pacific and Australia. Research will include topics such as the impact of aging on the workforce, modern communications technology for the elderly, and issues of obesity among many others.

       This is a rare and exciting opening of a one-of-a-kind research institute. Research will be collaborated by a number of leading universities in the region as well as the United States and the United Kingdom.  Leading the center will be Professor Graeme Hugo and Deputy Directors Dr. Dianne Rudd and Dr. Helen Feist.  Professor Hugo had been studying labor mobility trends and implication of international migration on economic change.  Most recently, he has written a publication titled “Australian Population and Immigration Policy: An Opportunity”.

        The APMRC team have had 6 papers accepted for the International Federation of Aging conference which will be held in Prague in May 2012.

        We can’t wait to see what interesting findings come out of this exciting venture!

Chart: Projected population size for selected age ranges.

Credit: The Treasury, Australian Government; Australia’s demographic change


Age-defying creams, potions, diets, exercise regiments, and meditation have all been prescribed to live a youthful, long life.  Today, the New England Journal of Medicine found that regular coffee drinkers live longer.  These stories are uplifting because we know that these are simple actions we can incorporate into our daily lives to live longer.

The oldest yoga teacher, at age 93, also has many things to teach us about the secrets of living longer while staying young.  Tao Porchon-Lynch of New York is inspiring for all of us wanting to know what we can do to remain active in older age. 

This week, she has been inducted into the Guinness World Records as the oldest yogi in the world.  She has been practicing yoga for over 70 years and teaches workshops and classes around the world.  However, it is not just her commitment to yoga practice which has enabled her to look so good and stay energetic as she reaches her centennial.

Here are the secrets Tao Porchon-Lynch can impart:

–          Exemplifying a positive “can-do” attitude

–          Staying open minded – she has synthesized aspects of Indian, European and American thought into her practice and every-day living

–          Remaining determined and focused

Catch up with Tao Prochon-Lynch at the World Karma Project in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, November 18 – 24th, 2012.

You can read more on her insights in her book “Reflections: The Yogic Journey of Life

The Director of IAHSA, Katie Smith-Sloan, recently met with representatives of Panasonic to discuss their innovative products for seniors. Some of the Panasonic products currently on the market in Japan include a robotic companion teddy bear, a hair-washing robot, and a mobility bed. Panasonic is also working on developing other products to enable the virtual delivery of rehabilitation services.  As a part of its service line in Japan, Panasonic operates a variety of long-term care facilities and rehab centers, and hopes that the development of new technologies will enable them to better serve their client base. Interested in learning more? Check out the video on their website.

Registration for the fourth EAHSA Conference on 27-28 September 2012 is now open! This year’s event will feature a Global Applied Research Forum focusing on the research needs of providers that provides an opportunity for researchers and providers to dialogue on translating research into practice. This conference will be an opportunity for aged care providers to share practices, daily challenges and findings about homes for the elderly and other services offered to the ageing population.

Since it was established, EAHSA has served as an important platform of exchange and discussion for service providers and all those committed in delivering the finest services together with first-class accommodation to elderly people. A highlight of the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, this conference is only one of the many contributions that EAHSA makes to support of ageing in society.

Check out this video with highlights from the European Year!

Reminder!  Only 11 days left to submit your abstract to “Aging in a Changing World,” October 18 – 20, 2012, in Vancouver, BC!  Abstracts are due April 2, 2012.

The CAG Annual Scientific and Educational Meeting is the primary multi-disciplinary conference in Canada for those interested in individual and population aging.  It features world renowned keynote speakers from the health and social sciences, cutting-edge symposia, opportunities to present papers and posters, and an exciting social program.

Individuals are encouraged to submit abstracts that address the conference theme, although ALL submissions will be given equal consideration.  Abstracts are due April 2, 2012.

Please visit the website to view:

– Call for Abstracts

– Student Poster Competition

– Travel Assistance Grants

– Preliminary program

The 2012 ASEM is hosted by Simon Fraser University Department of Gerontology and Gerontology Research Centre.

Photo courtesy s.yume

The 27th International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International starts on tomorrow 7 March 2012  in London.

Conceived as ‘three conferences in one’, the event will feature parallel sessions focusing on scientific advances, social support interventions, and technological measures to address the disease.  This conference  involves professionals, scientists, researchers, policy makers, people living with dementia, informal and professional carers and all Alzheimer association staff and volunteers alike. Despite dreary statistics on the expected growth of dementia, this will be a conference that expands awareness and understanding of the disease and develops research networks to search for a cure.  The International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing wishes Alzheimer’s Disease International a successful conference. If you’re attending the event use  the hashtag #ADI2012  on Twitter to share your thoughts during the event!

Check out this video that provides highlights of the event!

Would routine testing for dementia identify potential sufferers before they or their families realise they are affected?

In findings published last year, a US team assessed the impact of screening – coupled with further evaluation – on diagnoses in veterans aged 70 and older who had no indication of memory loss. Participants were given a brief test, in which they had to perform tasks such as drawing a clock and recalling certain words. Of the 8,063 people who accepted screening, 2,081 failed and 580 agreed to further evaluation. In total, 902 – or 11% – of people were diagnosed with cognitive impairment, compared with 4% in clinics without the program, the researchers said. Among those who failed the screening and accepted further evaluation, 432 were diagnosed with dementia. Of 118 patients who passed the initial screen but still requested further evaluation, 82 were diagnosed with dementia.

While this study illustrated that persons who self-described as non-symptomatic could in fact be suffering from cognitive impairment, it raises important questions about the value and risks of screening. Evidence is emerging that early diagnosis and intervention could have some positive effect on outcomes. Still, the question exists on whether the cost of additional screening of false positives is offset by savings from early intervention. The researchers, led by Dr. JRiley McCarten, suggest that further investigation is needed to draw conclusions.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.



About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

Questions? Email us at


Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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