June 17, 2019 | 78° F

Rutgers receives $1.4 M. grant for Alzheimer's, elder abuse research

Photo by Wikimedia |

The grant will help researchers understand issues of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Previous work conducted at Rush University tested the feasibility of using simulated video equipment to reduce abuse in high-risk populations.

Rutgers’ Institute of Health, Healthcare Policy and Aging Research School of Aging has received approximately $1.4 million in federal grants. 

Earlier this month, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Bob Menendez announced in a joint press release that the University would receive additional funding to “research and develop strategies to protect vulnerable older Americans.” 

“No American should have to worry that as they grow older, they may fall victim to abuse, neglect or financial exploitation, especially should they face a disease like Alzheimer’s,” Menendez said in the press release. 

Funding will be directed toward protection of elders with debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, or those who could be subject to neglect, abuse and financial exploitation with the goal enhancing services in elder communities and launching studies on how to reduce the likelihood of elder abuse, according to the press release. 

The Elder Justice Innovation Grants were established by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) in fiscal year 2016, for supporting research into elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, according to ACL’s website

These are two-year grants which “seek to improve the well-being of abuse survivors, study outcomes of Adult Protective Services (APS) interventions and test promising practices related to APS work.”

XinQi Dong, director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, is leading the research effort on elder abuse.

“The goal is to understand the issues of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation in diverse population of older adults, in order to advance elder justice initiatives and inform practice and policy,” Dong said. “We plan to use quantitative and qualitative methods to understand culturally appropriate ways to assist the victims and devise sound prevention strategies.”

He said it is hard to elaborate on specific research projects that he and his team are currently engaged in, for the work is only just beginning and details are scarce.

Every grant awarded by the ACL undergoes a rigorous evaluation, making them competitive and exclusive. The ACL only awarded eight grants in fiscal year 2016 and five in the following fiscal year. 

Kelly Mack, a public affairs specialist at the ACL, said the grants are actually transfers, having been originally awarded to Rush University while Dong was still a professor there. 

“When Dr. XinQi Dong moved to Rutgers, Rush relinquished the grants and Rutgers assumed responsibility,” Mack said in an email.

Dong and Rush University received two grants: one in fiscal year 2016, for the purpose of expanding existing research aimed at improving the prediction of elder self-neglect, and then again in fiscal year 2017 in order to test the “feasibility, acceptability and efficacy of using simulated video equipment to reduce the frequency and severity of abuse in high-risk populations," according to the ACL's website. 

Dong said it is best to think of the grants not as transfers, but as Rutgers grants.

Elder abuse is an insidious but tragically common phenomenon, not just in the United States but also throughout the world. 

It is estimated that 15.7 percent of people aged 60 or older experienced some sort of abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, verbal or even financial — as well as instances of abandonment and neglect, according to a 2017 study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) that looked at data collected from 52 studies in 28 countries. 

Furthermore, the study shows that instances of abuse against elders are considerably more common in institutional settings where, according to nine studies conducted in six countries, 64.2 percent of staff were reported to have abused the residents at their institutions in some way, than they are in community settings.

ACL suggests that more resources be channeled into funding research aimed at studying conditions in which elder abuse occurs, the physical and psychological effects on victims and ways to prevent future instances of abuse.

Those numbers are likely to increase as the population of people age 60 or older increases.

The population of Americans age 65 or older is projected to double from 49.2 million in 2016 to 98 million in 2060. Globally, the population of people age 60 or older is also expected to more than double in the coming decades — from 900 million in 2015 to 2 billion in 2050, according to a 2017 profile conducted by the ACL.

Jhon Pezo-Cordova, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, who has a close relative who suffers from Alzheimer's, said more funding results in more programs focused on helping older adults.

“I think that giving more funding to programs for adults is a big change to organize and implement programs for the well-being and health of older adults, in particular for mental and social health,” he said. “This is a great opportunity because many statistics show that there is an increase in the population of older adults in America.”

Monica Dias

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Targum.