Hope Foundation Newsletter January 2021
Covid has shown us the real value of collaborative research
MERRY CHRISTMAS, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays.
What a year 2020 has been! Covid 19 has had an impact on everyone. There has been a massive escalation in our knowledge about this virus and I think it is pertinent to stop and think about how well trained researchers and scientists have worked together to make the progress to date.
It is truly amazing that the collective might of the scientific community (with help from the funders and many, but not all politicians!) have developed effective vaccines in such a short time frame.
The vaccine makers might be seen as the superstars but science and research also tell us how this infection spreads, how we can reduce spread (wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, fresh air), who is most affected, how lockdowns have affected older people, what the economic impact is and how we might prepare for future epidemics, to name but a few areas that are being looked at.
The really important thing was the availability of the trained researchers to step up when needed. It is critically important for society to invest in research in all areas of human endeavour.
Research trains people to critically evaluate options. Research adds to knowledge with the goal of improving outcomes for us all. Research can help us evaluate if what we are doing now is still effective and the best value for money.
Collaborative research seems to be particularly powerful. We do not know where the next crisis will be and if we do not continue to invest in our science and research community across all areas, collectively we will be the losers.
We have been “lucky” to have been spared the high infection rates in NZ but this has been through a lot of hard work and sacrifice. We have learnt how important a good Public Health Service is. We have learnt that the DHBs need to collaborate more closely with the Aged Care Sector.
Did you know that during the first few months of Covid 19 the mortality rate for older people, including those in residential care, was much lower than expected?. This was despite (perhaps because of) much lower admissions to hospital. We need to explore this further. Covid 19 has forced us to look at new ways of doing things and there are positive things to learn.
So here is a big cheer for the research community and to all those who support them. The HOPE Foundation plays a part in this work so thank you all personally for your support. We have just selected our new scholars from a competitive field of over 20 PhD and Masters candidates and we wish them all well.
I wish us all a better 2021 and sign off with the new catch phrase: Be Kind to All.
Looking forward to 2021 as a ‘rather different 2020’ draws to a close
It has been a rather different year. The Friends Committee’s plans for fund-raising evaporated and Covid 19 took over our lives. In lockdown, we found safety in our bubbles at home and life found a new ”lock down” rhythm but our lives were devoid of social interaction and people.
Only this month did the Committee of Friends have the courage to meet. We discovered how much we have missed coming together to plan our fund-raising events and how much we have missed meeting with you, our supporters. Above all was the rediscovery of our appreciation of the work of the HOPE Foundation and you our supporters.
We feel so fortunate to be able to learn of the research our scholars are involved in. They give us an added interest in life through their work, while we give them an opportunity to focus on their research. How fortunate we are that young people areinterested in aspects of life that pertain to those over 65 years of age. Little do they realise that all too soon they reach this stage of life. Looking forward to next year, provided we can be Covid free in our community, we will commence planning fund raising events again. So far, a 5 kilometre walk around Cornwall Park is pencilled in. It is not about speed but about getting out and moving and how about an afternoon of croquet? We will let you know much more in 2021.
As we approach the Christmas Season, we thank you for your giving and wish you a very happy, safe and joyous festive season with your family and friends.
Peace and good wishes from each member of the Friends Committee of the HOPE Foundation: Rose Caughey, Kaye Davies, Sally Frengley, Leonie Lawson, Joan-Mary Longcroft, Kathy Peri, Marie Quinn, Elizabeth Rackley, Linda Snell, Carolyn Ward, Annette Wilson and Karen Yates.
EARLIER THIS year, UC PhD students Petra Williamson, Logan Chatfield and Jessica Fitzjohn each received a one-year HOPE Foundation Scholarship for their research aimed at improving quality of life for the ageing population. The support could not have come at a better time, enabling them to continue their theses as the country went into lockdown due to COVID-19.
UC PhD students Petra Williamson, Logan Chatfield and Jessica Fitzjohn
Petra Williamson is currently studying cardiovascular diseases and the effects of stenting on an artery. Through the use of Particle Image Velocimetry modelling techniques, Petra’s research will identify potential causes for known failures in high- risk stents to aid revision techniques and future stent development. Petra says the HOPE Foundation Scholarship was the difference between pausing or continuing her PhD during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“The scholarship enabled me to purchase a 3D printer that allowed me to continue prototyping artery moulds for the silicone arteries to be manufactured from. “The scholarship has removed some of the financial stress, so I am grateful to have received the HOPE Foundation Scholarship, especially in a year like this one has been.”
More comfortable breast cancer screening
Jessica Fitzjohn’s research is on using nonlinear mechanics models to develop a new method for non-invasive breast cancer diagnostics. Using data from a clinical trial involving digital imaging of actuated breast tissue, the images are converted to surface motion measurements, which are used to identify models and infer mechanical properties of breast tissue, with the potential to create automated diagnostic methods based on tissue properties.
Jessica says her research will improve the quality of life for women by providing a low-cost, zero-risk, more comfortable breast cancer screening method. “A comfortable screening method will raise compliance and increase early detection, providing the best chance of survival due to increased treatment options. “I greatly appreciate being selected for the HOPE Foundation Scholarship – for the financial assistance but also the encouragement that others believe my research to be worthwhile.”
Logan Chatfield’s research focuses on the development of a hybrid assist-as-need exoskeleton for stroke rehabilitation. With stroke being one of the leading causes of disability, combined with an increasing elderly population, Logan says there is great motivation to improve stroke rehabilitation. “My research looks at how the motor of the exoskeleton can be augmented with functional electrical stimulation, combining their physiological and design benefits, to improve how assistance is provided. I am also looking at how voluntary effort can be estimated from recording the electromyography of the muscle to optimise assistance, while maximising active patient participation.
“The aim is to independently control and balance the assistance to suit a patient’s needs, and to promote neuroplasticity to lead to better recovery.” Logan says the scholarship has enabled him to continue researching a subject area he is passionate about, with the goal to expand on his research to provide hospitals and patients with a low-cost, easy-to-use, and effective rehabilitation device.
HOPE Foundation Executive Officer Dr Jill Waters says the scholarship selection focus was on supporting relevant multidisciplinary research that will make a difference to the lives of older New Zealanders and ultimately, improve the health and well-being of all New Zealanders as they age.
“We were impressed not only with the high calibre of the UC candidates but most importantly, the passionate application of their engineering skill set to do greater good, by looking at improving diagnostic techniques and medical outcomes.
“COVID-19 has underlined just how important quality research is when dealing with uncertainty and life challenging changing events.”
For further information please contact:
UC Communications team, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
Republished with the permission of the University of Canterbury
Thanks to Our 2020 Major Sponsors
The Douglas Goodfellow Charitable Trust
Bollard Charitable Trust - Jogia Charitable Trust
The Kelliher Charitable Trust - Lois McFarlane Charitable Trust
The Selwyn Foundation - Agnes Hope Day Trust
Friends of the HOPE Foundation
HOPE Summer Student Scholarships 2020/2021
These scholarships are awarded to support high achieving University students to do an ageing focused research project over the 10 week summer break. The aim is not only to achieve high quality worthwhile research, but also to enable these students to gain valuable skills, by working with experienced researchers, who supervise these projects. Due to the generosity of our sponsors, we have been able to award 2 Summer Scholarships.
The impact of Covid-19 on intergenerational social contact among people over 70
Student: Camille Prigent
Supervisors: Professor Merryn Gott, Tessa Morgan, Dr Lisa Williams
The Covid-19 lockdown had particular implications for people over 70 who were identified as most vulnerable to the virus and singled out as needing to take special precautions.
A team from the Te Ārai research group based in the School of Nursing, University of Auckland, received funding from the Auckland Medical Research Foundation to explore older peoples experiences during this time.
One phase of the project involves people over 70 (and Māori and Pacific people over 60) writing letters about their experiences of Lockdown - over 600 letters have been received so far. Summer student Camille Prigent will work with Tessa Morgan and Professor Merryn Gott to explore the issue of intergenerational social contact during lockdown as described in the letters.
Letters will be analysed using thematic analysis to address the following objectives:
- What was the impact of lockdown upon the extent of inter- generational contact people over 70 had during lockdown?
- Did the nature of that contact change?
- What was the role of technology in facilitating contact?
- Has lockdown had any long- term impacts upon inter-generational contact for people over 70?
We have permission to recontact letter writers to further explore aspects of their recorded experiences. The final part of the project will involve contacting a sample of letter writers to discuss findings. This will ensure older people are included at every stage of the project.
The project is part of the programme of research being undertaken by the bicultural Te Ārai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group: http://www.tearairesearchgroup.com
Characterisation of astrocytic involvement in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease using human brain tissue microarrays
Student: Henry Liu
Department: Centre for Brain Research
Supervisor: Dr. Malvindar Singh-Bains
Co-supervisors: Mike Dragunow and Richard Faull
Dementia is an emerging global public health challenge for our generation: over 35 million people are affected by this condition worldwide (Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2010). In New Zealand, one-in-three of those over 65 will develop an ageing-related brain disorder (primarily Alzheimer’s disease/ dementia) (Brain Research NZ, 2015). Current evidence heavily implicates the involvement of neuroinflammation, an immune response in the brain, as one of the key features of Alzheimer’s disease pathology. It has been observed that astrocytes, one of the brain’s primary supporting cells, have been implicated in neuroinflammation through a process known as reactive astrogliosis, which involves several changes to astrocytic structure and function (Sofroniew & Vinters, 2010; Serrano-Pozo et al., 2013).
However, the spectrum of astrocytic cell involvement in Alzheimer’s disease is still far from being well understood in the human brain. The objective of this project is to screen for astrocytic changes in the Alzheimer’s disease human brain with a wide range of markers for proteins involved in astrocytic function.
We will examine markers for astrocytes using human brain tissue microarrays (TMA) comprised of clinically well- characterised Alzheimer’s and control post-mortem brain tissue from the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank.
We hope to identify novel molecular changes to these astrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease, which may serve as future drug targets to tackle the condition.
Swallowing difficulties are not necessarily age-related
HOPE Scholar Marie Jardine reports back after concluding her PhD study
DYSPHAGIA’ IS a medical term for swallowing difficulties. Swallowing problems are considered more common in older age. Age-related conditions and diseases lead to swallowing difficulties, which are also associated with malnutrition. There are health consequences if swallowing and nutrition problems are ignored.
Due to our ageing population, it is predicted that more older adults will be living longer in their own home. We wanted to find out if adults aged 65 years and over living at home had swallowing and nutrition problems.
Over 1000 adults aged up to 96 years old responded to our study invitation, which was first introduced at the Friends of the HOPE Foundation Jazzy Summer Soiree in 2019, and later through community groups.
We gave everyone two questionnaires to complete – one about swallowing and one about nutrition. We calculated total scores based on responses. We then determined whether these scores indicated swallowing and nutrition concerns based on cut-off values.
22% of responses indicated swallowing problems and 47% indicated nutrition problems. Those who reported swallowing problems also presented with nutrition problems.
Scores indicative of swallowing problems were related to medical history known to affect swallowing (e.g., stroke, Parkinson’s disease, head and neck cancer, and reflux). Those who did not have medical history known to affect swallowing had NO reported swallowing difficulties. There was no increase in reported swallowing or nutrition concerns with older age.
We concluded that the increased prevalence of swallowing difficulties in older age is attributed to health conditions and medications, rather than ageing itself.
Respondents in their 90s did not report more problems than 65-year-olds and their scores matched those of younger people in previous studies.
We feel strongly that swallowing complaints from community- living older adults should not be ignored or attributed to the normal ageing process. This study supports routine nutrition screening in older adults, particularly those with risk factors.
Acknowledgment of the HOPE Foundation
I am especially grateful to the support of the HOPE Foundation and donors during my doctoral study which has enabled me to share our swallowing research findings in New Zealand and abroad.
I encourage anyone who is interested in future research to get in touch, as taking part should be a rewarding experience. Participants play a critical role in advancing our knowledge; conclusions aren’t quite the same without results!
For more information – this survey-based study was recently published in the international journal ‘Dysphagia’.
Jardine, M., Miles, A., & Allen, J. (2020). Self-reported swallowing and nutrition status in community-living older adults. Dysphagia, 1-9. (Early online)
THE HOPE Foundation recently invited the Chair (Victora Walker) and CEO (Kevin Lamb) of Age Concern Auckland to present to the Foundation Board and to discuss where the Foundation and Age Concern could collaborate in the future.
Age Concern Auckland was created from the merger of three, previously independent organisations, the Age Concerns of North Shore, Auckland, and Counties Manukau. Since amalgamating on 1 July 2019, the ‘new’ Age Concern Auckland has reorganised itself to focus on three key areas of support activity:
Intervention Services - directly supporting those most vulnerable and/or experiencing elder abuse and neglect, as well as those in need of general social support and counselling. It is both an alarming reality that up to 10% of all New Zealanders will experience some form of elder abuse and/or neglect over the course of their lives and a scourge on Kiwi society that we tolerate this happening at all.
Social Connection - focused on mitigating the detrimental impacts of loneliness and isolation. We know from international research (and the limited NZ-based research) that over 20% of older people routinely suffer from loneliness and isolation and that the detrimental health impact of this is equal to that of heavy-smoking, alcoholism or obesity.
Ageing Well- equipping older people with tools, resources and knowledge needed to enable all older people to live independent, active, and engaged lives. It is encouraging that the majority of New Zealand’s older population is okay, well- supported and engaged in community life. However, for a very sizeable and significant minority, this is far from the case. It is also a sad reality that a sudden life-changing event can, virtually overnight, shift someone from being ‘okay’ to being potentially vulnerable.
The organisation has also established an Asian Service, where all the above activities are provided in culturally and linguistically appropriate forms to the older Chinese community.
Beyond direct support services, Age Concern also has a strong focus on local, regional and national collaboration, along with advocacy and lobbying functions focused on driving awareness and action on key issues impacting older people across Auckland and New Zealand as a whole.
Seeking better research on older people in Auckland
One of the key areas discussed was Age Concern’s new focus on research as a cornerstone of its activity.
There is a recognition that, in many ways, the development and provision of services and activities to support older people is based on out-dated research, international studies that pay little attention to the uniqueness of Auckland and New Zealand or anecdotal observation.
Age Concern are looking to develop a much greater under- standing of the needs of all older people across Auckland, and how we can best support those needs. With a plethora of data collated over the years, there is a potentially rich seam of information to mine and the organisation is actively looking for ‘partners’ to help develop the much needed depth of insight upon which to develop future services, activities and focus.
Part of a wider family
Age Concern Auckland is part of the wider family of Age Concerns across New Zealand, a family of independent organisation with shared values and vision.
The newly merged and created Age Concern Auckland is by far and away the largest of these, supporting around 25% of the older population of the country as a whole but continues to work in close collaboration with many of their fellow Age Concerns throughout the country.
You can also help by
- Spreading the word about what we do / share this newsletter
- Donating your time to the Friends Supporters to help with fundraising and committee work
- Encouraging your children and grandchildren to invest in their futures by donating time and money (a baby girl born today has a 1 in 3 chance of living to 100 , a boy 1 in 4 and is likely to be fitter and healthier–think about the implications of that)
- Consider a bequest