Faculty unite to research aging

By Kailey Love | The Duquesne Duke

Duquesne’s new Aging Research and Teaching Consortium is receiving a $25,000 grant from Provost Timothy Austin to research the social, mental and medical effects of aging.

According to founder Jane Cavanaugh, a professor in the pharmacy school, the ARTC will use the grant to attract well known speakers on aging issues to Duquesne, which will increase the visibility of the university.

“It will also allow us to establish Duquesne University as a leader in aging research and teaching in the Pittsburgh area and beyond,” Cavanaugh said.

Founded by Cavanaugh in 2014, the ARTC has united staff and students of several disciplines over one common goal: improving the lives of the aging.

According to ARTC research, the natural phenomenon of aging is likely to soon become a troubling factor in the U.S. economy. With 12.8 percent of the population being age 65 or older (and an estimated increase to 20 percent by 2030), health care costs and the number of age related disease cases will skyrocket, Cavanaugh said. Some political leaders and economists estimate that Medicare and Social Security will run out of funds in the next 50 years.

Given these concerning statistics, the members of the ARTC came together to find ways to improve the quality of life for the aging community if the cost of healthcare becomes a greater issue for them.

“Overall, we expect to gain information which can aid in the quality of life of all individuals experiencing age-related psychological, biological, sociological, moral, historical, legal, ethical, communicative and pathological issues,” Cavanaugh said.

Unlike many other research organizations, ARTC is an interdisciplinary effort. From researching the neurobiological effects of growing older to exploring the sociological aspect of age, the consortium encompasses a variety of academic fields. For example, Cavanaugh specializes in breast cancer and neurodegenerative diseases while her co-director Sarah Wallace of Rangos School of Health Sciences focuses on how to help the elderly communicate after suffering a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

“The neat thing about going to these meetings is that you meet people that focus on the same things you’re interested in, but approach them in a completely different way.” Wallace said. “I met someone who has my same focus, but studies it through music therapy.

Aside from producing both individual and collaborative research and projects, the ARTC also aims to spread their research through education at Duquesne in hopes that students will also get involved.