Updates from HSR&D Central Office
| 2021 Archive |
January 19, 2022
By Lynne Padgett, PhD FAPOS, Scientific Program Manager
Aging/Long-term Support Services and Mobility/Activity/Function portfolios
Lynne Padgett, PhD FAPOS, Scientific Program Manager
Approximately 60% of our Veterans are Medicare eligible, which provides an opportunity to initiate innovative programs and enhance ongoing geriatric programs and research. The current report from the Geriatrics and Extended Care program office estimates the largest areas of growth in VHA enrollees will be older Veterans (85 years and over), particularly women in this age bracket. Given the aging population, the need for long-term care settings, home-based care, and helping older Veterans maintain independence continues to grow.
When examining geriatric care trends, several gaps and attendant priorities emerge for health services research opportunities in VA. One manner of classifying research priorities is by thinking through the continuum of aging and care settings. Health promotion and fitness programs help older Veterans age in place by preventing or slowing functional decline. Gerofit, for example, is a VHA “Best Practice” program that has been disseminated to 17 VA sites. Gerofit is a fitness program for Veterans ages 65 and older that has demonstrated robust improvements in Veteran quality of life, physical function, and mental health. Moreover, research has demonstrated a positive association of decreased hospitalization for participants. The program has also served as a model for both national dissemination and conversion to telehealth at the onset of the SARS CoV-2 pandemic.
Aging in place is not only for the healthy and high functioning, as surveys suggest Veterans prioritize staying in their home environment even if they are no longer fully independent in daily activities. Ongoing research examining care delivery, quality, and cost in both home-based care and long-term care settings (e.g., Community Living Centers, State Veteran Homes) is essential when Veterans need additional care in the community. Caregiver research and palliative care remain priority areas also, as they are key components in quality Veteran care at various critical stages. Lastly, as many VA sites pursue designation as an Age Friendly Health System, health services research can establish the evidence base for successful design, implementation, quality, and cost effectiveness for our Veterans throughout the aging process.