Thanks to sustained funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and co-funding from the National Eye Institute, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) will continue a series of prestigious scientific conferences on emerging issues in geriatrics. This renewed support comes as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Conference Cooperative Agreement (or “U13”) Program. More than $200,000 in funding over 5 years will enable the AGS to coordinate a new set of U13 “bench-to-bedside” conferences focused on developing and prioritizing an actionable agenda related to multimorbidity. As always, nurses will play an important part in that work.
Each of the three upcoming meetings will focus on a common and clinically important pair of coexisting chronic conditions: sensory impairment and cognitive decline, osteoporosis and soft tissue disorders, and cancer and cardiovascular disease. Since 2004, the AGS has worked with the NIA through the NIH U13 Program to explore and clarify insights on the cutting-edge of geriatrics, having addressed sleep and circadian rhythm disturbance (2015) and delirium (2014) in recent years (AGS/NIA Delirium Conference Writing Group, Planning Committee, and Faculty, 2015; Fung, Vitiello, Alessi, & Kuchel, in press).
As nurses, physicians, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and so many others dedicated to high-quality, person-centered care, we know that our ability to serve older adults, caregivers, and communities rests on sustained support for opportunities such as these bench-to-bedside conferences. The NIH's leadership, together with the work of the AGS and its diverse members, is an important example of efforts to ensure that early insights become core components of future care for older adults.
Interprofessionally, the U13 Program promotes high-quality research and collaboration to support the NIH mission: seeking greater knowledge of living systems to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. By assembling experts, stakeholders, and junior investigators across different specialties and research disciplines, these conferences aim to define top priorities and key research questions on the road toward improving health outcomes for older adults.
In 2015, for example, more than 95 experts came together as part of the AGS/NIA U13 conference series to discuss sleep problems, including difficulty maintaining sleep and increasing sleep time among older adults. Consensus findings from the conference were presented at #AGS16 and will be reported soon in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Fung et al., in press). Examining the relationship between sleep problems and health is particularly relevant to research involving older adults, as the prevalence of sleep disturbance and certain health problems (e.g., cardio-metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders) increases with age. Sleep-based preventive and disease-specific strategies could yield transformative approaches for maximizing health, and that forward-looking approach requires the type of innovation fostered by the U13 conference series.
According to early evaluations from conference attendees in 2015, coming together in this forum provided a unique opportunity for leading researchers in the field along with the next generation of researchers in aging to collaboratively develop a research agenda, which it is hoped will help drive future productive research efforts in this area.
The 2016 AGS/NIA U13 conference—held October 16–18, 2016—focused on urinary incontinence in older adults. A novel feature of the 2016 AGS/NIA U13 conference was an exploration of risk factor relationships impacting geriatric syndromes, such as incontinence, to identify promising translational approaches that can take research, quite literally, from the laboratory bench to the bedside of older adults in need.
The AGS U13 conference series has been supported by the NIA of the NIH under Award Numbers U13-AG039151 and U13-AG054139. Access http://bit.ly/agsu13conf (case-sensitive) for more details on current and future conference opportunities.
- AGS/NIA Delirium Conference Writing Group, Planning Committee, and Faculty. (2015). The American Geriatrics Society/National Institute on Aging Bedside-to-Bench Conference: Research agenda on delirium in older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 63, 843–852. doi:10.1111/jgs.13406 [CrossRef]
- Fung, C.H., Vitiello, M.V., Alessi, C.A. & Kuchel, G. (in press). Report and research agenda of the AGS/NIA Bedside-to-Bench Conference on sleep, circadian rhythms, and aging: New avenues for improving brain health, physical health, and functioning. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.