Healthy Aging Symposium Set to Showcase Opportunities for New Research Partnerships
By Erin Frick
ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 13, 2022) — As the global population ages, there is a growing need for advances in technology, medical care and policy that support healthy longevity. This is especially critical against the backdrop of overlapping crises including climate change, health disparities, economic instability and political unrest — all of which complicate challenges associated with aging.
Together, University at Albany and SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY Poly CNSE) are well positioned to address these challenges through research, academic programs and community partnerships.
On Oct. 17-18, UAlbany will host the Healthy Aging Symposium — an opportunity for faculty from UAlbany and SUNY Poly CNSE to share research and discover the breadth of aging-centered projects underway at both institutions. This internal symposium marks the launch of a broader Healthy Aging Initiative, which aims to forge new interdisciplinary and inter-institutional partnerships to advance research that will improve health and wellbeing among aging populations in New York and beyond.
“From research into treatments for various cancers and neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, to investigations into how climate change and health equity issues affect aging populations, many UAlbany and SUNY Poly CNSE faculty are working in critical research areas aiming to improve people’s lives as they grow old,” said UAlbany’s Vice President for Research and Economic Development and Healthy Aging Symposium Steering Committee Co-Chair Thenkurussi (Kesh) Kesavadas.
“We also realize that many issues that affect aging populations are strongly interdisciplinary, and we see opportunities to enhance existing research by building partnerships across the various schools and colleges at UAlbany and SUNY Poly. This is why we are convening this symposium — to give researchers a chance to meet, share their work and imagine new collaborative opportunities.”
The Healthy Aging Initiative aligns with goals outlined in the Gov. Hochul’s State of the State address, which emphasized the need to advance research and establish programs to support New York’s aging population.
“We have been excited to collaborate with the University at Albany Research Office to develop this healthy-aging focused symposium, which will help seed future programmatic discussions and delineate ways to advance both research and policy,” said SUNY Polytechnic Institute Interim Dean of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering André Melendez. “I look forward to hearing from the leaders participating in this engagement as they provide insight into basic, behavioral, environmental and technological/engineering-centered innovations, which can further inform approaches to maximize healthy aging.”
“Our faculty and staff are already entrenched in research that supports, or has the potential to support, healthy aging,” said UAlbany Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Kim, who co-chairs the symposium steering committee with Kesavadas. “Articulating this focus and nurturing new collaborative programs is not only an important research initiative, it will also create new opportunities for community engagement.”
“This first phase of the Healthy Aging Research Initiative will allow us to gain a stronger understanding of existing research projects and build teams internally. Once these teams are in place, we plan to connect with community groups, local colleges, NGOs and government agencies — to broaden the scope and impact of our work throughout the Capital Region and across New York State.”
Academic offerings are also slated to grow along with research collaborations and community partnerships as part of the Healthy Aging Research Initiative.
“At UAlbany, we have many existing academic programs that support interdisciplinary learning,” said Kim. “We expect that new interdisciplinary academic programs will emerge from this initiative, particularly programs that integrate STEM fields.”
Symposium run of show
Day one of the symposium will begin with a reception in UAlbany’s ETEC building. Dean of UAlbany’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences Michele Grimm will present an overview of the “Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity,” a report released earlier this year by the National Academy of Medicine, which Grimm helped develop.
Two keynote talks will follow. The first will be presented by Myriam Gorospe, senior investigator at the National Institute on Aging, who will discuss her work on cell senescence in the human body and how targeting senescent cells can mitigate diseases associated with aging. Interim Dean Melendez will moderate a Q&A session.
Next, Acting Director of the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) Greg Olsen will present an update on the New York State Master Plan for Aging, highlighting NYSOFA’s current initiatives. Interim Dean of UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare Victoria Rizzo will moderate the Q&A.
The evening will conclude with a panel discussion that will provide a snapshot of the four research domains identified by the organizing team: Technology/Engineering, Environment, Behavior and Basic Research. The panel will be moderated by Provost Kim.
Day two will begin with remarks by School of Social Welfare’s Rizzo, including plans for building partnerships with other institutions. Next will be four sessions of lightning talks covering the four research domains. Each session will include four talks, with moderated Q&A.
All disciplines on deck
"Interdisciplinary collaborations allow researchers to look at complex issues from different perspectives — bringing together sciences, engineering, public health, social welfare, emergency preparedness and public policy — to identify solutions that would not otherwise be possible if the research approach remained siloed,” Rizzo explained. “UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare has a long history of aging-focused intervention research and workforce training. This initiative will allow our school to build new interdisciplinary research collaborations that will benefit older adults now and in the future."
The symposium steering committee includes representatives across many of UAlbany’s schools and departments including the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Social Welfare, the School of Public Health, the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, and the School of Education.
“UAlbany and SUNY Poly have many of the component parts in place, in terms of vision, partnerships, research facilities and expertise, needed to create resilient and novel research collaboration networks,” explained Theresa Pardo, associate vice president for research and economic development, who is organizing the symposium. “Combining these components in new and different ways will allow us and our community partners to better respond to a range of societal challenges of particular relevance to the aging population.”
To learn more, contact Theresa Pardo at [email protected].