Ageing Well National Science Challenge November Newsletter
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Ageing Well Newsletter

November 2017


The Mission of the Ageing Well Challenge: to add life to years for all New Zealanders


Newsletter Topics

Director's Update

Tēnā Koutou,

Welcome to our November newsletter.
Prof. Dave Baxter
We've had an exciting month of activity at Ageing Well. Last week we held not only our annual Ageing Well Symposium, but also jointly hosted New Zealand's first dedicated Research Impact Conference – Realising the Potential. At both of these events, it was wonderful to catch up with our wider team and hear about all the exciting research being undertaken. Both events also provided Ageing Well team members with the chance to network and exchange ideas. It is always inspiring to be part of a network of researchers all committed and working towards a common goal. The events of the last week, described in more detail below, are testament to the fact that Ageing Well is very well placed heading forward.

Ngā mihi,
Prof. Dave Baxter

Inaugural Research Impact Conference a Roaring Success

Over one hundred academics, researchers, policymakers and stakeholders gathered in Dunedin this month to discuss, debate and learn about meaningful research impact. Realising the Potential, a conference organised jointly by Ageing Well, CHARR, and CARE, explored how best to reap the rewards of scientific research so that it yields profitiable results for our end users.

Held at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery from 21-22 November, the conference examined impact from many angles. International keynote speakers described best practice; academics and stakeholders illustrated successful models of collaboration and community engagement; and interactive workshops offered attendees the chance to think about achieving impact, whether that be through the commercialisation of research, influencing policy change, or delivering new health care into our communities. The final session of the conference, a panel discussion between the three health-related National Science Challenges (Ageing Well, A Better Start, and Healthier Lives), looked at how researchers are proactively engaging with Māori communities.        

Overall, the Research Impact Conference was a wonderful event that allowed everyone involved in, and who uses and benefits from, research to go away with a better understanding of how to realise the potential of research so that it be put to work to measurably and meaningfully improve New Zealand. (We will bring our readers a more detailed summary of the conference on our website and in a later Newsletter.)   

Ageing Well Holds Fruitful Annual Symposium

On Tuesday 21 November, Ageing Well held its annual Symposium in Dunedin. Our entire team –members of the Governance Group, Strategic Advisory Group (formerly known as the SLT), Principal Investigators, and the Directorate – gathered together to receive project updates and plan for the future. Our 14 Principal Investigators (or their surrogates) presented brief updates on their projects outlining their progress to date, the challenges and opportunities they had encountered, and their achievements. It was exciting to hear about successful patient outcomes, stakeholder engagement, or journal publications that demonstrate the strength of our Challenge. The symposium also offered the chance to engage in a productive discussion about the future direction of Ageing Well, particularly as we build our case for Tranche 2 funding.  

Profiling Dr Ruth Teh: A SUPER Study For Seniors

Dr Ruth Teh, a Senior Lecturer at Auckland University, is the Principal Investigator of Ageing Well’s Reducing Frailty Project, better known as SUPER. Staying UPright and Eating well Research (SUPER) aims to test the impact and cost-effectiveness of running two types of classes, SAYGO and Senior Chef, and whether these classes prevent frailty in pre-frail older adults. We asked Dr Teh about her project and where it is heading. Dr. Ruth Teh

What inspired you to get involved in research?
I suppose it is the inquisitive environment and possibly the genes I inherited. My grandmothers are responsible for this. My maternal grandmother encouraged me to advance my studies; my late paternal grandmother inspired me to do research with older people. And both of them are my case studies.I am most intrigued by their way of life after a stroke at the aged of 80 (my late paternal grandmother passed away at the age of 95) and dementia at the aged of 87 (my maternal grandmather just celebrated her 91st birthday).

What excites you about your work?
I see my work as a journey of discovery.  For me, working and talking with older people is the most exciting part of that work. It  helps me stay grounded and have a right perspective in life. It is most rewarding to hear how the research we are doing makes an impact in an older person’s life; the smiles on their faces are just priceless.
What does your research aim to explore?
There are many discussions about healthy ageing. The SUPER study (Staying UPright and Eating Well research) aims to operationalise a part of this concept.  To do this, we are working with local communities to run strength and balancing exercise, and nutrition and cooking, classes.  The exercise aims to enable older people to be more confident walking about in the community; and we know having the right kind of food and nutrients are essential for activities.  As we age, our living and financial situation change and this will have an impact on our eating habits. The cooking classes aim to enhance the meal quality without straining the budget. The SUPER study aims to find out whether these programmes can facilitate maintainance/ improvement of physical function and quality of life in older people at risk of losing independence. 
Why is your study important to you/local community/New Zealand?
The population is ageing and, in the 65+ age group, the numbers in advanced age (80+) will rise most steeply. We know older people value quality of life and functional status.  However, most of the studies to date focus on treatment of a particular condition and these studies generally exclude those aged 75+.  Frailty leads to functional loss (both physical and cognitive function). Studies show up to half of community-dwelling older people were pre-frail, and in a large cohort study in New Zealand, three in five aged 80+ were pre-frail. The SUPER study aims to find out whether a complex intervention can reverse frailty in pre-frail older people and to understand the mechanism in the pathway of reducing frailty. With a better understanding of these issues, we will be able to work with local communities to adapt the activity and food programmes to support older people to remain agile physically and mentally.
How has your community reacted to the study so far?
As far as we know, the study is well received in the community and among GPs. Local supermarkets contribute food items for the cooking classes. We have overwhelming demand for the exercise programme and we are planning to start new classes to accomodate new members.  A local church is offering a hall for the study to run the classes, meaning the gold coin donations from the class go back to the community.  The programmes are well received by local organisations runinng programmes for older people and we are in collaboration to promote these activities in the community. 
SAYGO and Senior Chef are exciting initiatives. What made you decide on these activities (and this approach) in particular?
These two programmes are well established in Christchurch and Dunedin.  They were developed particularly for older people in supporting them to remain in high functionaDr. Ruth Tehl capacity. Since frailty is a complex condition, a multidimensional approach is needed. SAYGo aims to strengthen the muscles and improve balancing; and Senior Chef (pictured right) aims to improve the quality of meals older people cook  by exposing them to a variety of nutritious food that meets the nutrient requirements for optimal functioning. Besides addressing the physical aspect of health, anecdotal evidence suggests that the motivation and social camaraderie developed within the groups give the older person purpose and enjoyment. Having attended these classes myself, the activities are pragmatic and informative, and the interactions in the class are just lively and witty.

What happens next for the SUPER project?
We will be sharing the study findings with the pariticipants, their family and whanau at local huis. The reports will also be dessiminated to PHOs, GPs, local communities and stakeholders, and relevant agents within the Ministries of Health and Social Development.  We hope to follow the study participants for a longer timeframe (beyond the planned 24 months) to assess the impact of these programme over time. This will be an added strength of the SUPER study since many intervention studies with frail/pre-frail older people have short follow-up times (e.g. 3-12 months).

2017-2018 New Zealand-China Non-communicable Diseases Emerging Researcher Travel Fellowship

The NZ-China Non-communicable Diseases Research Collaboration Centre (NCD CRCC) invites applications for the 2017-18 New Zealand‒China Non-communicable Diseases (NCD) Emerging Researcher Travel Fellowship, funded by the MBIE Catalyst Fund for Advancing International Partnerships
This Travel Fellowship, worth $40,000, will support an early-career New Zealand NCD researcher to develop engagement with NCD researchers in China.

The deadline for applications is 4pm on Monday 15 January 2018.

For more information about the Travel Fellowship and how to apply, please visit our website at:

3 RCUK Innovation Fellowships Available at University of Sheffield

3  Full-Time positions available
Closing Date: 7th December  2017

Full details are available from the following link: Innovation Fellowships at the University of Sheffield
Contact Information 

University of Otago
PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
03 479 4863
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