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With senior population about to skyrocket, OHSU physicians, researchers team up to ensure healthy aging

Editors note: OHSU is hosting a Healthy Aging Conference to kick off its increased focus on healthy aging. Reporters are invited to attend and speak to experts and seniors.


Thursday, Oct. 27, noon to 5 p.m.


Mirabella Portland at South Waterfront, 3550 Southwest Bond Ave.


Due to space/capacity restrictions, the event is not open to the public.

Thanks to new therapies and disease prevention measures, Americans are living longer then ever and our population is rapidly aging. According to the Census Bureau, there will be 71 million Americans older than 65 by 2030, accounting for roughly 20 percent of our population. This is, of course, good news, but it also signals the need to prepare for a new set of health challenges.

Oregon Health & Science University physicians and researchers are joining forces to prepare for this aging population “bubble.” They are forming the OHSU Healthy Aging Alliance to help ensure that our aging population receives the best care possible.

The alliance is being formed to prevent and deal with common health issues that will plague seniors in the coming years:

  • Cognitive decline – the number of Alzheimer’s and dementia cases is predicted to greatly expand in the years ahead. 
  • Falls in older adults lead to hospitalizations and are often the beginning of a person’s health decline. 
  • Heart disease remains a leading cause of death among Americans, especially aging Americans. 
  • Cancer and stroke are the second and third causes of death.
  • Arthritis, sleep disorders, impaired immune function and other health issues related to aging can impede quality of life.

“OHSU is highly regarded for its expertise in aging,” explained Elizabeth Eckstrom, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of medicine (general internal medicine and geriatrics) in the OHSU School of Medicine. “We must now align these strengths to plan for the future increase in aging patients and the jump in diseases related to aging. Specifically, we want to strategically plan research to meet the needs of our seniors, find new ways to make sure the results of our research influence the care of our aging patients, and offer new training opportunities to help Oregon doctors prepare for this significant change in their patient population.”

OHSU’s current research and clinical efforts to assist those with aging related diseases include:

  • The Layton Aging & Alzheimer's Disease Center provides patient care and conducts research to determine the cause of Alzheimer’s and other dementias and to find new treatments. 
  • The Oregon Center for Aging and Technology partners research with senior living facilities to spot the early warning signs of mental decline to ensure rapid treatment and help determine a cause.
  • The Oregon Stroke Center leads the state in finding ways to treat stroke victims as soon as possible and seek out new treatment methods through research.
  • Several neurological research institutes, including the Parkinson’s Center of Oregon, and the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Oregon, focus on diseases that often occur later in life.
  • Research at the Oregon National Primate Research Center focuses on development of therapies for age-associated cognitive decline, impaired immunity and other disorders of the elderly.
  • The Vollum Institute generates new knowledge about the workings of the brain on a cellular level and how those functions change over time.
  • The Oregon Geriatric Education Center offers evidence-based prevention strategies to health care workers throughout the state.

These institutes and many others will meet on Thursday, Oct. 27, with additional partners throughout the state, including older Oregonians. The meeting will launch the expanded efforts to combat the negative impacts of aging and improve the quality of life for seniors.

“In the current age of health reform, we must make changes to the delivery system,” said OHSU’s chief medical officer Charles Kilo, M.D., M.P.H. “However we must also make sure that our services and research are aligned to impact the needs of our patients in the future. These efforts will do just that.”

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