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Work Groups of The Aging Institute

Nowhere is the mission of the Aging Institute more clear — and the impact of its participants from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh more profound — than in the productive and interrelated achievements of its Work Groups.

Work group initiatives reflect the Aging Institute’s growing partnerships across clinical operations, academic and scientific research, and financial operations. They bring together experts from wide-ranging disciplines to address the many challenges facing older adults, from creating better models of care to developing cost-effective solutions.

Current Work Groups

Brain Health Work Group

Some people live long, but do not necessarily live well, in their later years, as cognitive health — memory, attention, judgment, intuition, and language — can decline. Depression can become debilitating. Older adults who experience cognitive decline may be unable to prepare meals, manage money, or care for themselves.

The Healthy Aging Work Group’s newest initiative will explore brain health to develop a better understanding of the brain’s resilience. The goal of the work group is to promote public awareness of what can be done to promote overall brain health.

The multidisciplinary work group — with expertise in psychiatry and mood disorders, epidemiology, neuroscience, and public policy — aims to determine:

  • What mechanisms enable some individuals to compensate and age better than others?
  • Once identified, can these mechanisms become a target for intervention and management?
  • Can we develop a prescription that combines neurochemical and behavioral interventions to improve brain health?

Building on the Healthy Brain initiative of the Centers for Disease Control, the workgroup will explore why some older adults — even those with severe physical disabilities — mentally age more successfully than others.

The study will also evaluate health risk factors such as high blood pressure, high glucose, and fat levels to study if the brain is better able to adapt when these conditions develop slowly.

Recognizing the challenges of motivating older adults to consistently engage in exercises and other brain health activities, the work group will explore the potential of creating biomarkers that will reward older adults and enable them to actually chart their brain health’s progress.

Past Work Groups

Dementia Work Group

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, last year more than 15 million caregivers provided over 17 billion hours of unpaid care to people with dementia valued at more than $216 billion dollars.

The Dementia work group will respond in unique and relevant ways to the challenges faced by families caring for loved ones with dementia. While informed by the research and programs of sister organizations like the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and the Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Aging, this initiative is targeted on dementia's impact on families.

Work Group members include:

  • Representative of UPMC Health Plan
  • Caregivers at UPMC and UPMC Senior Communities
  • Researchers and faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh representing such disciplines as nursing, physical and occupational therapy, public policy, psychology, and social work. Many have had direct experience providing care to a relative with dementia.
  • Representatives from long-term care facilities, community-based organizations, and outpatient agencies that provide care for dementia patients

Delirium Work Group

The purpose of this Work Group is to create and distribute educational programs on delirium to employees throughout the system and in all settings.

The focus of the training includes:

  • Recognition
  • Prevention and treatment
  • Education about high-risk medications

The group is designed as multi-faceted approach will span a twelve to eighteen month time period.

Palliative Care Work Group

Working in collaboration with the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute, The Aging Institute’s Palliative Care Work Group is identifying ways to improve access to comprehensive and coordinated palliative and supportive care services in a variety of settings, including UPMC’s long-term care facilities and outpatient clinics.

Healthy Aging Work Group

The UPMC Health Plan turned to the Aging Institute’s multidisciplinary team to develop strategies to promote osteoporosis management and prevent additional fractures for women over the age of 65 who have suffered a fracture in the past.

Launched in April 2012, the work group’s Mature and Secure from Falls and Fractures initiative was designed to identify the related evidence and implement interventions to:

  • increase osteoporosis screenings
  • increase interventions and treatments
  • identify barriers and facilitators to osteoporosis management adherence
  • decrease the priority population’s risk for a second fracture

Unplanned Admissions Work Group

The Aging Institute’s Unplanned Admission Work Group established ways to prevent avoidable hospitalizations among the nursing home population, while improving overall patient care.

This important quality improvement initiative also has shown a potential for medical cost reductions. The goal of the workgroup was to reduce avoidable hospital admissions in UPMC’s skilled nursing facilities by 20 percent. Springing from this initiative, the Aging Institute and its sister organization, the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute, were awarded a four-year, $19 million dollar CMS grant, known locally as RAVEN, to improve the quality of care and reduce avoidable hospitalizations among nursing facility residents in western Pennsylvania.

About UPMC

A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.2 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid $587 million in federal, state and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to