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Gerontology Matters
March 2014

The New Zealand Association of Gerontology

In this issue:

President's Welcome

We live in a time where evidence based practice rules. Evidence is used to underpin and provide a rationale for changes to policy, social service provision and health care. Traditionally, the ‘best’ type of evidence, that is the ‘gold standard’, is the randomised controlled trial. As a critical social scientist, I reject the hierarchy of evidence with randomised controlled trials at the top and qualitative studies at the bottom. My view is that research must have a purpose and the methodology chosen must be appropriate to the research question being asked. As someone who is committed to contributing to the field of gerontology, research must therefore impact positively on the well-being of older people, including our theoretical understandings of ageing.

There are seven key objectives in the Rules of the New Zealand Association of Gerontology. The first objective is “[T]o study ageing in all its aspects” the second  is “[T]o promote and disseminate quality gerontological research”. But who should determine research agendas relating to older people? The executive of NZAG believe that older people themselves should be involved in identifying the focus of research that relates to them as a group. There are several organisations in New Zealand that represent the views of older people. For example, Age Concern and Grey Power.

Age Concern has produced a ‘wish-list’ of researchable topics which they would like to see investigated by the research community, please see the latest version of it here. Many of the topics resonate with me as a researcher and as an academic who supervises masterate and doctoral theses in the field of gerontology. The list will be valuable to me as I provide students with suggested areas of research that could make a difference to the well-being of older people. I call upon all NZAG members to do the same in their own spheres.
Stephen Neville

The International Association of Geriatrics and Gerontology (IAGG)

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As an NZAG member, you are invited to register for the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics (IAGG) newsletter and stay up to date with international news.

You can register here for the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics newsletter or by sending your email contacts to IAGG

Information relevant to NZAG members

Member-only access to research, news, and information about the organisation.

The NZAG is proud to announce the launch of a new member-only portal on our website. 

What does this mean for you?
  • If you are an NZAG member, you will have access to content not available to the general public
  • You can submit your own contributions to our News section, such as research you have recently undertaken that you would like to share with fellow members of the Association
  • You can be more involved in decisions about the organisation as we share news and ask for feedback 
This new functionality is only available to current financial members of NZAG. If your membership has lapsed or you would like to join, please do so via the website. Access will granted to you immediately following the online credit card payment of your subscription.

Paper: Ageing and Mental Health

Univeristy of Otago, Christchurch - Semester 2, 2014.

The paper will focus on mental health disorders within the context of ageing in the older person. Content will include fundamental sciences of aging from physiological, psychological, sociological and epidemiological perspectives, psychopathology and clinical assessment skills. It will also include the use of screening tools and tests, diagnostics, psychopharmacology, ethical/medico-legal issues and nursing interventions based on best practice guidelines.

Fiscal challenges and changing patterns of need for health and long-term care in New Zealand

26 February 2014 - Health Improvement and Innovation Resource Centre (HIIRC)

This journal paper describes the impact of an ageing population on future health care needs:

The authors discuss some of "... the challenges that New Zealand faces in managing expenditure growth and repositioning its health and long-term care system to deal more effectively with changing patterns of disease".

Long-term participation in peer-led fall prevention classes predicts lower fall incidence

06 February 2014 - American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine

The following is from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine - the research was undertaken in Otago:

The objective of this study was "to investigate the association between length of participation in Steady As You Go (SAYGO) peer-led fall prevention exercise classes for older adults and 12-month fall incidence."

Promoting independence in frail older people: A randomised controlled trial of a restorative care service in New Zealand

07 March 2014 - HIIRC

The following is from the HIIRC:

This randomised controlled trial investigated the effectiveness of a restorative care service (compared with usual care) on institutional-free survival and health outcomes in 105 frail older people at risk of permanent residential care who were referred for needs assessment. The restorative care service included a comprehensive geriatric assessment and care plan developed and delivered, initially by a multi-disciplinary team and subsequently by home care assistants. The authors found that, "compared with usual care, there was a non-significant absolute risk reduction of 14.3% for death or permanent residential care (8.8% for residential care and 7.2% for death alone) for the restorative care approach", with no difference in levels of burden among caregivers.

A new leader for Age Concern New Zealand 

12 March 2014 - Age Concern New Zealand

Media Release:

Age Concern New Zealand is to have a new Chief Executive.  Robyn Scott has been appointed to take up the position at the end of April. 

Robyn has fifteen years’ leadership experience in the community and voluntary sector including 10 years as CEO of Philanthropy New Zealand and an earlier career in the education sector. She is moving from her current senior role in the Commission of Financial Literacy and Retirement Income. 

“Robyn’s demonstrated leadership skills, strong relationship management and strategic and financial acumen will be of great value to the organisation  as we continue to bring older people and their issues to a greater level of New Zealand’s consciousness and to build our service provision”, National President Evelyn Weir said today. 

“Robyn also has the ability to lead the organisation in a significantly changing social and economic environment”, Mrs Weir added. “Age Concern expects to play a lead role in how, as a society, New Zealand responds to an ageing population and tackles issues such as older people’s well-being, health care, social support and retirement income.”   
As the new Chief Executive Robyn will be working with the Board, staff and the Age Concern network to ensure the organisation remains well positioned to represent the interests of a growing group of New Zealanders and to help shape the environment for current and future generations of older people. 

Making our health and care systems fit for an ageing population (UK)

13 March 2014 - HIIRC

The following is from the HIIRC:

This UK report, published by the King's Fund, sets out a framework and tools to help local service leaders improve the care they provide for older people across nine key components.

The nine main components of care covered by the report are as follows
  • healthy, active ageing and supporting independence
  • living well with simple or stable long-term conditions
  • living well with complex co-morbidities, dementia and frailty
  • rapid support close to home in times of crisis
  • good acute hospital care when needed
  • good discharge planning and post-discharge support
  • good rehabilitation and re-ablement after acute illness or injury
  • high-quality nursing and residential care for those who need it
  • choice, control and support towards the end of life

International review of home care visits for the elderly finds 'no proven benefit'

14 March 2014 - HIIRC

The following is from the HIIRC:

In what's thought to be the biggest review of academic literature into whether home care visits provide benefits for the elderly, researchers conclude there is 'no consistent evidence' to show they lead to the elderly living longer or having more independent lives than those without any visits.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Oxford analysed 64 randomised controlled trials (RCTs), mainly in the United States, Canada and the UK. They say that they cannot rule out the possibility that some programmes involving home care visits may be effective, but neither is there significant evidence of benefit.

Obesity battle key in fighting dementia

10 March 2014 - 3 News
The following is from 3 News:

The week beginning 10 March was Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign aimed at increasing public knowledge about the benefits of brain research. 

Brain specialist Dr Helena Popovic was in New Zealand to support the campaign, and says we need to tackle the obesity epidemic in order to curb the dementia epidemic.

She says obesity damages blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain, compromising the body's ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the brain, impeding its proper functioning.

Obesity also increases the risk of diabetes, stroke and sleep apnea, all of which can increase the likelihood of dementia.

It also makes it harder to exercise, a proven way to avoid the debilitating condition.

Blood test could detect dementia

10 March 2014 - NZ Herald

The following is from the NZ Herald:

Scientists have developed a new blood test that could detect whether or not a person will develop dementia within three years.

Changes in the blood may signify Alzheimer's disease in its earliest stages, researchers found.

A new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, identified 10 molecules in blood could be used to predict with at least 90 per cent accuracy whether people will go on to develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease.

Oldest person spills secrets of longevity 

03 March 2014 - NZ Herald

The following is from the NZ Herald:

In the year in which Misao Okawa was born in Osaka, Queen Victoria was still on the British throne.

Okawa, already recognised as the oldest person in the world, celebrated her 116th birthday this month - and attributes her longevity to eating well and sleeping at least eight hours every night, with the occasional nap thrown in for good measure. "You have to learn to relax."

Robots whirr into elderly care

01 March 2014 - NZ Herald

The following is from the NZ Herald:

A future where our elderly have faithful robot servants to look after them might be closer than we think, with the Government offering researchers new cash to push the concept forward.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has offered researchers a grant to link up with Japan on smart projects for robotics and "human assistive devices" for elderly care.

Japan might lead the world in such advances, but New Zealand has already taken the first steps toward a future of robot helpers.

Plan for older workers, firms told

11 March 2014 -

The following is from

Businesses need to be able to support the needs of an ageing work force as New Zealand faces a looming skills shortage, according to a new survey.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Trust (EEOT) quarterly diversity survey found almost two-thirds of businesses were unprepared to support an ageing work force.

The survey of 1100 businesses found the increasingly age-diverse work force was becoming a reality and a diversity focus for organisations.

Healthy Ageing in the 21st century: The best is yet to come

University of Birmingham

In 2011 the University of Birmingham launched a policy commission on healthy ageing to explore different expectations for flourishing in later life and how good health in later life can be promoted. This Report first presents their key findings and then sets out the Commission’s recommendations for healthy ageing in the UK’s 21st Century super-diverse society.

Nutrition and dementia: A review of available research

Alzheimer's Disease International

Eating and having a good meal is part of our everyday life and important to everybody, not least to people living with dementia. But it is still an almost totally neglected area of focus in relation to these diseases.

Compass Group and Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) have come together in commissioning this report to investigate how the right nutrition can help to make life better for people who live with dementia. This is clearly reflected in ADI’s mission and vision: ‘an improved quality of life for people with dementia and their carers’. Compass Group, as world-leading food and support services organisation, shares this vision in their work to support people who are affected by dementia.

Running evades dementia

19 March 2014 - NZ Herald

The following is from the NZ Herald:

Those attempting to guard against dementia should put down the crossword and go for a jog, British researchers have advised.

For years, people have assumed that puzzles kept the brain active. But Professor Clive Ballard, professor of age-related disease at King's College London, said those who wanted the best chance of staving off dementia should opt for a run or a brisk walk.

It has long been known that those who exercise regularly are less likely to develop the condition, but it was only last month that a study at the University of Pittsburgh showed that instead of the brain shrinking - as it does normally at a rate of about 1 per cent a year - it grew by about 2 per cent in those who took a brisk 40-minute walk three times a week.

Improving Continuity of Care for Elderly Patients with Chronic Diseases Cuts Costs and Complications (US)

17 March 2014 - RAND Corporation

The following is from the RAND Corporation, USA:

Improving the coordination of care for elderly patients with chronic diseases trims costs, reduces use of health services and cuts complications, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Studying a large group of Medicare patients, researchers found that even modest improvements in the continuity of care among patients with diabetes, congestive heart failure or emphysema were associated with sizable reductions in use of hospital emergency departments and hospitalizations.

The findings, published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that improving the coordination of care for patients with these three illnesses could save Medicare as much as $1.5 billion per year.

Conferences - New Zealand

New Zealand Association of Gerontology Conference

12-14 September 2014 - Dunedin, NZ

It’s not too late to submit an abstract to the NZAG meeting in Dunedin 12-14 Sept! To date, we have received a wide range of topics from workshops and mini-symposiums on oral health, spatial analysis for building aged care systems, publishing in scholarly journals, Maori health, and current community falls prevention programmes, along with many abstracts covering a range of subjects covered under our main themes. We are also pursuing funding to offset registration costs for students, care workers and community attendees. The deadline for submission is 31 March, so don’t miss out on what is looking to be an informative and exciting conference.

New Zealand Population Health Congress: First call for abstracts

6-8 October 2014 - Auckland, NZ

The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine, the Public Health Association and the Health Promotion Forum are pleased to present the 1st New Zealand Population Health Congress. 

We are now inviting abstracts and encourage you to take this opportunity to present and discuss your work and your contribution to improving population health.

Abstracts are being invited for: 
  • Day 1 (Monday 6 October) – Focus on connecting with communities, particularly the indigenous communities of New Zealand and the Pacific, e.g. public health programmes and community based initiatives
  • Day 2 (Tuesday 7 October) – Focus on connecting with policy, business and culture, e.g. healthy public policy, health promoting businesses, and national-level epidemiological studies.
Abstracts are not invited for Day 3 as it is structured around a series of masterclasses which don't involve proffered papers.

Dementia: the future is now

November 2014 - Rotorua, NZ
We have come a long way in the 30 years since the first Alzheimers group was formed in New Zealand and the dementia community started to focus on helping people affected by dementia.
We are now at a watershed moment with exciting developments in research, diagnosis, prevention, support services and treatment options, both here and internationally.
The biennial Alzheimers New Zealand conference "Dementia: the future is now" showcases these exciting developments and is a must attend for members of Alzheimers NZ, people affected by dementia, health professionals, community, home based and residential providers, primary health care professionals, educators, researchers and policy makers.

Conferences - Overseas

Global Disability, Ageing & Healthcare Conferences Online Guide 

See a more comprehensive listing of conferences at our web site 
For more information click here.
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