research news

New effort to enhance, expand aging-related research

Concept of aging featuring figures of different ages: children, young couple with a baby carrage, adult, elderly adults using wheelchairs and walkers.


Published December 4, 2023

Allison Brashear.
“As a city that is home to minority and aging populations growing more rapidly than in other U.S. regions, Buffalo is uniquely positioned to be the place where innovations targeted to these communities should be developed and implemented. ”
Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and dean
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

To address the increasingly urgent needs of the growing population of adults aged 65 years and older, UB is dedicating $4 million to aging-related research.

The investment will leverage the university’s wide-ranging expertise in age-related issues and research throughout its 12 academic units.

It will allow UB to expand and enrich educational programming, enhance faculty recruitment and strengthen multidisciplinary research collaborations with the goal of generating solutions that address the physiological and societal elements of aging.

Olsen keynote speaker at kickoff event

A symposium on “Advancing Aging-Related Efforts” will formally launch the initiative. It will take place at 3 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences.

The symposium’s keynote speaker is Greg Olsen, acting director of the New York State Office for the Aging, who will discuss Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Master Plan on Aging, which is being coordinated by the New York State Department of Health and the state Office for the Aging. Olsen oversees the Office for the Aging’s administration of federal- and state-funded programs designed to assist the more than 4.6 million older adult residents in the state, as well as programs that assist family members and others involved with helping older adults who need greater levels of assistance. 

“We are delighted to be able to host Greg Olsen at our symposium and to share with him the innovative work of UB faculty,” says Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School.

The symposium will feature more than 70 UB faculty projects focused on improving the quality of life for aging Americans.

Poised to be national leader

The new effort will position UB to become a national leader in aging-related research.

It comes amid a growing consensus that the U.S. must accelerate research that addresses the needs of older adults. For example, the National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and many other public and private funders are allocating more resources to address age-related issues.

“Given the growth in the aging population, we need to address issues impacting the health of our older populations,” says Jean Wactawski-Wende, SUNY Distinguished Professor and dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions. “Our university is poised to make significant contributions in advancing knowledge and solutions related to health in our aging populations. UB’s interdisciplinary approach to education, practice and research will be central to addressing these issues in our communities.”

UB’s primary strengths in this field include its Academic Health Center, which is comprised of the university’s health sciences schools: Dental Medicine; the Jacobs School; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Public Health and Health Professions; and Social Work. Additional expertise comes from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and others.

Many aging-related projects have been ongoing at UB for years and include:

  • The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA) in the School of Architecture and Planning, which is partnering with Erie County to integrate design and livable communities strategies across all county departments.
  • The Team Alice project, where School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty partner with engineering and medical researchers to focus on reducing medication risk in older adults by deprescribing.
  • An innovative age-reversal technology being explored by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  • The Women’s Health Initiative, a 30-year study in the School of Public Health and Health Professions looking at health outcomes in postmenopausal women, which is now studying women ages 80 to 100 and up.

The new initiative will dedicate resources toward bolstering these efforts while also supporting the recruitment of new faculty who are focused on novel approaches to aging-related challenges.

“As a city that is home to minority and aging populations growing more rapidly than in other U.S. regions, Buffalo is uniquely positioned to be the place where innovations targeted to these communities should be developed and implemented,” says Brashear. “This new focus will allow UB to more powerfully leverage its scholarship and innovation to address the increasingly complex needs of our region’s aging population.”

New faculty research will be supported with seed funding from the university, with the goal of attracting additional funding from the NIH and other federal agencies. Currently, the National Institute on Aging is funding more than 7,000 projects in this area for a total of $5.8 billion. Their funding has doubled in the past 10 years and UB wants to position teams to be part of that growth, recognizing that it is a significant concern for so many.

Other plans include implementing a seminar series to bring national leaders to the university to engage in and stimulate conversation on critical aging-related topics. UB also plans to host a multidisciplinary team-science symposium on aging to bring together campus-wide faculty with expertise in the field, as well as regional partners, to foster further collaboration.