The Indiana University Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief Institute, an international leader focused on improving the health and quality of life of older adults, is commemorating its 25th anniversary. 

Our investigators and staff have made numerous contributions to the field over the past quarter century, including conducting landmark and influential studies in dementia, depression, delirium, deprescribing, physical activity, surrogate decision-making, palliative care and advance care planning. 

Center investigators have expanded the concept of “the patient” to include family caregivers, focused on health equity, developed and tested one of the first team-approach elder care models (GRACE) and additional innovative models of collaborative care for people receiving care in the outpatient settings, nursing home residents and critical care survivors including COVID-19 patients. Several Center studies have been recognized as seminal work helping to shape the practice of geriatric medicine.

A significant focus of Center research is on improving the quality of long-term care and reducing unnecessary hospitalizations. Our research scientists developed the Avoidable Transfer Scale, an innovative tool that uses data commonly included in a nursing home resident’s electronic medical record to identify and characterize potentially avoidable hospitalizations, highlighting issues that can be handled in the nursing home itself. 

UPLIFT-AD (short for Utilizing Palliative Leaders In Facilities to Transform care for Alzheimer’s Disease) is another research scientist-developed model that aims to build and evaluate the capacity for palliative care within long-term care facilities. In the ongoing NIFT-E (Nurse Intervention to Facilitate Transition to home Environment) study, research scientist Jennifer Carnahan, M.D., MPH, M.A., is leading a team reviewing data on caregiver and patient challenges and perspectives on transitions from hospital to the skilled nursing facility and how to improve return to the home environment. 

Also focusing on long-term care is an ongoing trial on advance care planning being conducted in more than 170 nursing homes across the U.S. The APPROACHES study (short for Aligning Patient Preferences – a Role Offering Alzheimer’s patients, Caregivers, and Healthcare providers Education and Support) trains staff to educate other employees and implement procedures to support advance care planning for residents and provides the facilities with the tools necessary for these important conversations. 

Additionally, the Center has an established track record of training current and future generations of geriatricians, other clinicians and researchers.

The IU Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief has influenced care locally, nationally and internationally for older adults residing in the community as well as institutional settings.

Over the past quarter century, Center research has been supported by numerous funders, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, RRF Foundation, Greenwall Foundation of New York, John A. Hartford Foundation, Regenstrief Institute, Regenstrief Foundation and many others.

The IU Center for Aging Research is helping Regenstrief Institute bridge the academic-entrepreneurial gap to disseminate successful interventions and novel inventions. One example is the Institute’s investment in Probari, a care-coordination startup led by a Center research scientist Kathleen Unroe, M.D. The company grew out of OPTIMISTIC, a long-term Center study that developed a care model which generated a 33% reduction in avoidable hospitalizations of nursing home residents, saving $3.4 million while improving the quality of care.

The IU Center for Aging Research has grown from four researchers at its founding to 16 active faculty members today, including two of the original researchers: Christopher Callahan, M.D., an internist with a special interest in the aging brain who arrived at Regenstrief Institute as a fellow in 1988 and served until 2019 as the Center’s first director, and Daniel O. Clark, Ph.D., a medical sociologist whose research focuses on the impact of physical activity on memory and executive functioning as people age.

From its earliest days, the IU Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief Institute has been a community of scholars focused on the complexity of caring for older adults and their caregivers, helping these often-vulnerable individuals maximize their quality of life. As we mark our 25th anniversary, we look forward to a future of continued Center innovation and impact on the lives of older adults across the nation and around the world.

About Regenstrief Institute  

Founded in 1969 in Indianapolis, the Regenstrief Institute is a local, national and global leader dedicated to a world where better information empowers people to end disease and realize true health. A key research partner to Indiana University, Regenstrief and its research scientists are responsible for a growing number of major healthcare innovations and studies focused on informatics, aging, health services, and health data standards. Examples range from the development of global health information technology standards that enable the use and interoperability of electronic health records to improving patient-physician communications, to creating models of care that inform practice and improve the lives of patients around the globe.  

Sam Regenstrief, a nationally successful entrepreneur from Connersville, Indiana, founded the institute with the goal of making healthcare more efficient and accessible for everyone. His vision continues to guide the institute’s research mission.

Susan Hickman, Ph.D., is the Director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief Institute and Interim President and CEO of Regenstrief Institute.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.