Aging Mind and Brain

The U.S. population is aging. Both the number and percentage of Americans ages 65 years and older are expected to rise dramatically over the next few decades—a major demographic shift that will present a range of social, economic, and health care-related challenges.

Thanks to major advances in health care, it has become increasingly common for individuals to reach advanced age in generally good physical health, while cognitive health does not always keep pace. Understanding how aging affects cognitive functioning—as well as physical health, how we can intervene to prevent problems, and how we can translate that knowledge into better quality of life for older people—will require expertise in areas as wide-ranging as neurology, engineering, biomedical design, nursing and health science systems, and law. This Grand Challenges Initiative, therefore, brings together faculty from the University of Iowa Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health, as well as the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

The Aging Mind and Brain Initiative builds on a foundation of existing UI strengths, including centers and institutes such as the Center on Aging, the Institute for Clinical Public Policy Center, the John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, and the Iowa Institute for Biomedical Imaging. Several UI colleges have active outreach programs on aging, with extensive networks around the state. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers an aging studies certificate for undergraduate and graduate students.

Fourteen new faculty members, based in various academic departments, will join forces with current faculty to examine ways to prevent or delay mental decline in older people, improve cognitive health, and prolong the independence of older adults. Together, they hope to establish the University of Iowa as a world leader in enhancing quality of life among aging populations. In the process, they plan to help make Iowa one of the nation’s healthiest states, by designing and implementing specific interventions that increase mind and brain health.