Discovery across The Life Span: Later Life

Discovery across The Life Span: Later Life

With the affiliation of the Gerontology Center in 1990, the Life Span Institute emerged as the largest KU research group with scientists engaged in discovery and providing expertise for Kansas and beyond on the human behavior across the entire life span.

As we age, we process information more slowly, and some aspects of memory fade. However, this year, Susan Kemper showed that the aging brain’s slower processing speed was the prime candidate in the typical communication problems of healthy older adults. She devised a way of precisely measuring the performance of young and old individuals in a “dual-task procedure” or doing two things at once. In this case, people used a cursor to track a moving target on a computer screen while responding to questions.

A milestone in the precise measurement of language and communication problems, the methodology used in the study may also help identify early dementia and evaluate treatments.

David Ekerdt’s ongoing exploration of the premise that possessions—their management and disposal—can keep older Americans from moving to living quarters where they can better manage their health and well-being caught the interest of the New York Times writer Paula Span this year in e New Old Age online column.

David Johnson is an investigator with the new federally- designated Alzheimer Disease Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center. This center includes researchers from both the Lawrence and KUMC campuses and supports longitudinal studies of people with healthy and unhealthy aging. Johnson, describing himself as a “dementia detective,” looks for the earliest cognitive fingerprints to these disorders in medical histories noting that each dementia seems to have its own fingerprint in how it effects memory and thinking.