Nearly 4 million people in Texas are over the age of 65, making up nearly 15% of the state’s population, according to a 2019 report. By the year 2050, 1 in 4 adults in the United States will be older than 65. As the population of older adults continues to grow, so does the need for quality health care and powerful research.
Researchers and physicians across all six schools at UTHealth Houston are prepared to take on this challenge with the newly established UTHealth Houston Institute on Aging, positioning the university to become a leader in aging and health care for older adults. The new institute will build on the foundation of the UTHealth Houston Consortium on Aging.
“Establishing the Institute on Aging demonstrates the substantial commitment by UTHealth Houston to advance healthy aging and age-friendly care within our health care institutions, in the training of our students, through the promotion of research and clinical innovation, and through outreach to older adults and caregivers across Houston,” said Aanand Naik, MD, executive director of the UTHealth Houston Institute on Aging.
Naik is professor and chair of the Department of Management, Policy, and Community Health with UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, and holds the Nancy P. and Vincent F. Guinee, MD, Distinguished Chair with UTHealth Houston. Naik is also a member of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.
The new institute will undertake innovative research and disseminate innovations that enable older adults to achieve what matters most in their lives. Faculty with the institute will also enhance care for the elderly population in Houston, with a focus on overall healthy aging, frailty and resilience, as well as elder abuse, mistreatment, and financial exploitation.
“The institute provides a lasting home for innovations in healthy aging for UTHealth Houston and the Houston community to advance the research, clinical models, education, and community outreach that will improve the lives of older people,” said Holly M. Holmes, MD, vice president of community engagement at UTHealth Houston and director of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School.
Of the 650,000 physicians practicing in the U.S., fewer than 9,000 are geriatricians — or 2.4 geriatricians per 10,000 people over 75 years of age. Fewer than 3% of medical students choose elective courses in geriatrics. Likewise, there is a growing demand for nurses with specialized training in caring for older people, as well as dentists and pharmacists who understand the unique needs of the older person.
The UTHealth Houston Consortium on Aging was established in 2010 by the late Carmel B. Dyer, MD, to help meet the challenge of providing quality health care for the growing population of older adults in Houston. It is a university-wide collaboration which focuses on the expertise of all UTHealth Houston schools, encompassing medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, biomedical informatics, and biomedical sciences.
Consortium members established centers of excellence to combat elder abuse and to support mobile and connected health, and distributed seed grants to new investigators. This foundational work inspired Dyer’s novel age-friendly health care delivery model which greatly increased the quality of care for older adults while reducing costs.
To date, there are over 200 members of the consortium. Members of the consortium will now be part of the institute.
“The institute will build on the critical mass and collective efforts of the members of the Consortium on Aging, opening the way for new collaborations and advances,” said Holmes, the Joan and Stanford Alexander Chair in Gerontology with McGovern Medical School.