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Research on aging takes new focus amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Aging Studies Center has studied memory, mobility and more topics that affect people 60 years old and up.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Our aging population can tell us a lot about how medical issues develop and how our bodies might respond one day.

It’s the research at UF Health in Jacksonville that is using local data to help doctors understand complex problems.

“It’s a challenge but a challenge we’re up for,” Dr. Alexander Parker is the senior associate Dean for Research at UF Health in Jacksonville and oversees the Aging Studies Center.

When coronavirus arrived, it meant shifting gears.

The center, which opened in 2018, looks at memory, mobility and more topics affecting those who are 60 years old and up, narrowing the focus on low income and minority seniors. Parker said now researchers are looking at what the virus means for these groups. He said it opens the doors for new research as well.

“What people forget is survivorship issues,” Parker said, “What it’s like to live in a world where we have these new realities and we’re engaged in all aspects of that natural history and age is an important factor.”

Parker said treatment is not one-size-fits-all, so the more data and people studied could translate to improving outcomes. He noted the effort being made to improve reaching these groups during the pandemic as a shift to telemedicine has happened.

“If we think the answer is simply going to be everything goes online well then one of the first questions is do the populations we serve clinically and in research sense have access?” Parker questioned.

Parker said researchers have to work on a remote blood pressure device. He explained getting doctors' data without patients coming into an office could be extremely useful.

If you are 60 or older and inclined to participate in research, a registry is available here.