Rapid medical progress in the past 100 years has significantly increased the proportion of elderly people in the total population. However, old age comes with an increased incidence of severe health problems, so that only a tiny fraction of senior citizens can enjoy the last part of their lives in perfect health and independence. Furthermore, the increased percentage of elderly people in a society raises social and economic issues. We are therefore searching for new, effective and viable concepts for the best possible health in old age. These pressing issues, that will stamp the future, are the subject of the Leibniz Research Alliance on Healthy Ageing.
Once they reach an advanced age, most people pay for their high life expectancy with increasing susceptibility to chronic disease. Cardiovascular ailments are most common, such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, chronic osteoarthritis with persistent pain and limited mobility, as well as brain deterioration caused by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Other chronic diseases like cancer, respiratory problems, liver complaints and psychological conditions and instability complete the picture of multimorbidity that affects many patients over the age of 65. They survive longer, thanks to improved medical care. Thus it is obvious that the top priority of ageing research is not to continue increasing life expectancy per se, but has to be to prolong the period of good health.
The development and testing of new approaches to geriatric therapy and prevention require, above all, knowledge of the biological causes of ageing. Elements of these molecular/biological causes can themselves become objectives for new approaches to therapy, and can also be used as benchmarks for assessing the effectiveness of preventive strategies in lifestyle and nutrition.
The increased percentage of elderly people in society also raises social and economic issues. It is undisputed that ageing processes also have fundamental social causes and consequences. Individuals’ socio-economic situations as well as their environmental, housing and living conditions play a central role with regard to life expectancy and health in old age. It is therefore obvious that problem-oriented ageing research cannot be limited to the field of biomedicine, but rather requires collaboration between diverse scientific disciplines to analyse the social and economic consequences for the age structure of the population.
The overarching scientific goal of the research alliance is to explore the biological and social foundations of the ageing process and their interactions in order to develop novel intervention and adaptation strategies that sustainably promote healthy ageing. The research programme is thus divided into two core areas:
Prof. Dr. med. Jean Krutmann
Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF)
Tel.: +49 211 / 33 89 – 224 / - 225
Dr. Britta Horstmann
Tel.: +49 30 / 20 60 49 - 60