Building on our accomplishments to date, we consider five areas as particularly fruitful for future endeavors:
1. Elucidating physiological system dynamics for responding to stressors and maintaining a steady state. We believe the elucidation of such dynamics to be critical if scientists are to develop effective strategies for preventing disability and frailty, and perhaps even to slow aging. We consider dynamical systems models to hold particular promise for this line of endeavor and are actively pursuing their development.
2. Real prospects for achieving this goal are emerging due to the “aging” of multiple cohorts that were assembled decades ago and continue to have health assessments at the present time. A number of such studies reside at our institution, for example, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities and Epidemiological Catchment Area studies.
3. Achieving heightened understanding of the interplay between social, cognitive and physical health, and their determinants in older age. A distinguishing factor in the approach we envision is to consider the aspects in parallel and on an equal footing. We believe such a holistic approach will yield novel, multi-faceted strategies for preventing, and intervening to ameliorate, adverse aging outcomes. We are uniquely positioned for this work due to the breadth of multidisciplinary expertise we house, spanning biological, clinical, social, cognitive and methodological science.
4. Creating methodology to succeed in advancing in directions 1-3. With a large concentration of mathematical and statistical expertise and strong connections to departments of biostatistics and biomedical engineering that are among the world’s best, we are powerfully positioned to accomplish this. We particularly seek to advance methods to elucidate dynamical systems, simultaneously elucidate natural histories among multiple aspects of health change over time and develop targeted and multi-faceted strategies to intervene to the betterment of older adults’ health.
5. Intervention studies to promote health and ameliorate frailty and disability in older adults. The Experience Corps study is a social model for such a study; particularly through our Older Americans Independence Center, we are currently moving to initiate physiological models for intervention, prevention and targeting.