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Partnership Provides Residents With Insight Into Latest Alzheimer’s Research

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Exercise, a healthy diet, reduced stress and plenty of rest are well-documented methods to reduce one’s risk of heart disease, but primary research being conducted right here in the Kansas City Metro suggests these are also ways to slow the progression of cognitive decline – specifically Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to a community partnership with the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center (KU ADC), the residents of Village Shalom have had a unique opportunity to benefit from the Center’s findings through a series of educational initiatives.   

The Smart Aging Series is a five-session educational workshop that provides insight on the Center’s findings and an in-depth look at the way four lifestyle factors (exercise, nutrition, stress and sleep) impact the progression of cognitive decline. The series was initially intended for individuals participating in KU ADC studies, but has since been expanded to educate healthcare professionals and community organizations. Village Shalom is the first retirement community to host the Smart Aging Series. 

A student reviews her notes during the Smart Aging Series’ Sleep session. The Smart Aging Series took place at Village Shalom from Oct. 8 through Nov. 5.

“The series was very helpful,” said Village Shalom resident, Brita Horowitz. “I especially enjoyed the nutrition class, as I didn’t fully realize the impact a healthy diet has on the brain.”  

The KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s scientists have received international acclaim for their research on how lifestyle factors affect normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Located in Fairway, the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center is one of 29 centers designated and funded by the National Institute on Aging – but is the only with a primary focus on the brain’s creation and use of energy. Its mission to promote healthy brain aging and strategies to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is being fulfilled through research studies, training and educational initiatives. 

“If we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s for five years, we can cut the number of those impacted by the disease in half,” said KU ADC Alzheimer’s Prevention Program Coordinator, Omar Ramirez. 

Omar Ramirez, the KU ADC’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Program Coordinator, presented the five-part Smart Aging Series held at Village Shalom.

Village Shalom has been a community partner of the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center since 2014. 

“It was important for us to support this important research being conducted right here in the Kansas City area,” said Village Shalom Chief Operating Officer, Karin McCrary. “Our goal in the partnership is to support the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center in developing a means of preventing Alzheimer’s in those who don’t have it, finding effective treatments for those who do, and making the most current research findings available to our residents and their families to improve the quality of their lives.” 

Beyond the Smart Aging Series, KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center Associate Director, Dr. Jeffrey Burns, has taught at Village Shalom University – the community’s annual lifelong learning initiative. In addition, the KU ADC staff dietician is developing a “brain healthy” diet and series of presentations to be shared with Village Shalom’s residents and dining services staff. 

The KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center is also working with residents to identify potential participants for its research studies. The studies are open to individuals age 60 and older, with and without Alzheimer’s disease, and typically focus on how physical factors affect cognitive decline. 

“It’s a great way to leave a legacy,” said Carroll Oliver, KU ADC Recruitment and Marketing Coordinator. “Odds are it won’t help those who have the disease now, but it could help others in the future.”      

To learn more about the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s research studies, volunteer opportunities and more, visit KUAlzheimer.org.