Hope Foundation Newsletter June 2021
Older Kiwis are resilient – but we all need to support the vaccine
Welcome to the HOPE Foundation newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading about our Scholars’ work.
While they are all passionate and enthusiastic about their re- search, I particularly like the work of Camille Prigent, who has found a positive aspect to the Covid Pandemic – see below. Older people are resilient and adaptable, often using technology to keep in touch.
I know from my own neighbourhood we had increased social connection and frequent use of a neighbourhood What’s App group, that continues now. The ages in our group ranged from mid 40s to 90. This included a brief socially distanced 90th birthday party!
I am reminded of a cartoon where the young children were asking an older person what they did before cellphones and computers were invented. The reply was they were busy invent ing them! Never underestimate the skills and experience of our older generation.
Many of you may have had the COVID vaccine or it will soon be available. I encourage you all to have this vaccine and to inspire others to get it. The vaccine we have in New Zealand is very effective and has few side effects. These are mainly related to the injection itself and the predictable response to a vaccine – local tenderness and possibly mild viral symptoms, which are very short-lived.
There are several reasons to get vaccinated. Firstly, to protect your own health. Secondly to prevent spread to more vulnerable people in your family or the community, as on-going spread may cause severe repercussions. Covid may be a mild illness for the fit but the consequences of spreading it to someone vulnerable can be lethal.
New Zealand is still in a very risky position when it comes to potential outbreaks, despite the sterling work of people at the borders and in our Public Health Services. Getting vaccinated will reduce the impact on our health resources and allow us to focus on other important health needs. When there are outbreaks, the impact on staffing, both in the health sector and other areas, put an enormous strain on workers who continue to hold the fort.
There is also a high economic impact. Finally, if we get a very high proportion of the population vaccinated, we may be able to return to “normal life”. Borders may open, families can reconnect and those who are vulnerable may feel more confident about going out and about in New Zealand. Please be leaders in this area.
Another positive spin off from COVID is that our vigilance for respiratory infections overall has increased. It is no longer socially acceptable to “soldier on“ with a cold or flu, risking spread to workmates, friends, and family. People do die from other viral respiratory infections as well. COVID precautions have shown we can reduce the spread. Keep safe, keep washing your hands, stay home if you are unwell.
Please share the newsletter widely and encourage others to sign up as a Friend of the HOPE Foundation.
The impact of COVID-19 on intergenerational social contact among New Zealanders over 70
Camille Prigent, pictured below, received one of our HOPE Summer Scholarships in 2020. She is completing a Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, specializing in Population Health
Literature at the beginning of the pandemic predicted that lockdown would be an incredibly socially isolating time. New Zealanders aged over 70 were invited to write letters to share their experiences and views of the lockdown. In total, more than 700 letters were received.
Our research suggests that from the perspec- tives of older people, instead of exacerbating social isolation and intergenerational tension, the COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand may have directly and indirectly enhanced intergenerational connection. Time and technology enabled frequent communication between generations.
Lockdown presented an opportunity and incentive for older people to learn how to use technology to stay connected with family. This highlights older people’s ability to adapt and sug- gests that the pre-existing digital divide that is often spoken about as a barrier to creating age-friendly societies can be addressed. In addition, both within families and neighbor- hoods, real efforts were made to creatively compensate for the burdens of lockdown.
Intergenerational connection was not strictly one sided. One participant cooked on zoom with her grandchild every week and others placed teddy bears in their windows. With families having to spend increased time at home, neighborhoods became more social environments.
These imaginative, casual, and digitalised forms of intergenerational connection occurring during lockdown, positively influenced older people’s experiences of COVID-19. Participants felt that the narrative around older people being vulnerable resulted in younger people caring more about them and although grateful, it also brought feelings of guilt and compassion towards the younger generations.
In the event of another long-term lockdown, older people who do not have technology or do not know how to use it should be prioritised.
A benefit of working from home in the future may be that there is more opportunity for communication and neighbour- hood interaction. Many thanks to the HOPE Foundation and the University of Auckland for allowing me to take part in this enriching experience.
Scholarship helps progress important work on Alzheimer’s
Characterisation of astrocytic involvement in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease using human brain tissue microarrays
Henry Liu was a HOPE Foundation Summer Scholarship recipient in 2020. The following is a summary of his research report:
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common neurode- generative disorder in the world, with no disease modifying therapies that can halt the progression of memory and cogni- tive decline. Recently, studies have moved away from studying neurons and have focused on other brain cell-types such as astrocytes, as they now believe they may play a significant role in AD pathology.
Astrocytes are star-shaped supporting cells of the brain and underpin many vital processes such as helping with neurotransmission, regulating the blood-brain barrier, as well as the blood flow to the brain. This summer research project aimed to investigate astrocytes in the middle temporal gyrus (MTG) of both neurologically normal (control) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brains. The MTG is a region of the human brain implicated in learning and memory. The purpose of this study is to identify successful antibody candidates to target astrocytes and map out their expres- sion patterns in AD.
This project investigated a spectrum of antibodies. By profiling the expression patterns of these markers, we hope to understand any connection between astrocytic dysfunction and the neuropathology of human AD. This may enable new approaches to drug treatment for Alzheimers disease, which so far has proved elusive to effectively modify.
The summer research scholarship has armed me with technical laboratory skills such as immunohistochemistry, microscope imaging and working with human brain tissue. Furthermore, I have learnt other skills including the ability to troubleshoot when things go wrong, the ability to critically review and read scientific articles and present research to my peers. I am grateful for the tremendous amount of support that has enabled me to undertake this research.
2021 HOPE Foundation Scholars
Despite the challenges of 2020, we have been very fortunate due to the generosity of our sponsors, to be able to award 12 University HOPE scholarships for 2021. These are all very worthy recipients and hopefully their work will make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders in the future. Enjoy reading their inspiring projects.
Device Free Fall Detection
Auckland University of Technology
Computer Science PhD study
Each year, about a third of people over 65y fall and about one out of five of these people suffer significant injury such as head trauma or fractures. Even those who are not injured, are often unable to get up on their own after a fall. This can result in them developing a fear of falling, loss of confidence to live independently, low physical activity, poor social interaction, and even depression. Monitoring the movements of older people has become increasingly important but without compromising privacy and causing any sort of hindrance in day-to-day activities.
Device-free sensing is a method that has been recently introduced to monitor the presence, location, motion, activity, and gestures of a person without the help of any attached device. This approach functions with wireless signals such as Wi-Fi and 3G/4G.
Any movement done by the person present within the premises of the deployment area of the wireless network can be instantly gauged by the wireless signal patterns and characteristics. Moreover, Device free sensing works exceptionally well in smoky or dark conditions unlike other state-of-the-art sensing techniques, such as cameras and wearable sensors. This technique also prevents privacy intrusion. All these features make it a desirable option for pervasive sensing applications and warrants further study with regard to fall detection.
Biocompatible artificial muscles and sensor assistive devices in rehabilitation
University of Canterbury
Biotechnology PhD study
Accurately re-creating human muscles artificially has the potential to make a huge difference in the world of biomedical engineering. Many researchers are now looking towards a bio-mimetic approach to solving engineering problems. Using biomimetics allows us to optimise and recreate biological structures naturally or artificially, for applications extending further from where the biological structures exist today.
Artificial muscles have the potential to aid a multitude of medical conditions from skeletal muscle replacement/assistance to smooth muscle replacement/assistance and even cardiac muscle. However, the closed loop control of artificial muscles is still largely unexplored.
My research is looking into characterising a carbon silicone rubber- based material for use with an artificial muscle technology called dielectric elastomer actuators.
The first step is understanding the dynamic electro-mechanical properties of a specially developed conductive elastomer composite so any stretch and strain of the material can be understood and used for sensing purposes. Many current implementations of dielectric elastomer actuators require a large, unsafe voltage to create a meaningful actuation movement.
Hence the next step is to develop this material into various artificial muscle configurations exploring advanced manufacturing techniques such as sputtering and electro-spraying to achieve an actuation voltage that can be used in close proximity with humans.
The Role of Alcohol in Sleep, Health and Well-being of Older Adults.
Masters in Health Science
By 2050, it is estimated that almost a quarter of New Zealanders will be aged 65 years or older. By this age, most people will have spent 22 years asleep. Despite this, the importance of sleep is still largely overlooked in healthy ageing. Sleep is a crucial determinant of health and wellbeing that changes continuously over the life course. Sleep disorders and problem sleep, which are more prevalent in older adulthood, are associated with comorbidities and poorer waking function. This is, therefore, capable of resulting in greater health care usage, falls and mortality among this cohort. Alcohol is well-recognised for its sedative properties. This fact encourages a long-standing misbelief that alcohol encourages good sleep despite research demonstrating its adverse impacts on sleep quantity and quality. Publicly available health data has shown that both the prevalence of alcohol consumption and the prevalence of hazardous drinkers among New Zealand older adults has increased recently. Differences in health outcomes vary with patterns of drinking and research in New Zealand has shown considerable diversity in both the ways older adults may engage with alcohol and in the associated health statuses. However, the changing relationship between drinking status and sleep associate with ageing has yet to be explored.
This research will provide a novel and comprehensive overview of the risk factors for sleep problems among older New Zealanders and their associations with physical and mental health as well as alcohol use. This work will seek to determine the prevalence of problem sleep among New Zealand older adults and explore the relationships that exist between poor sleep and health status within this cohort. Additionally, this work will identify and characterise patterns of drinking among older adults and investigate the sleep and health of older adults’ sleep according to low, moderate, and high-risk behaviours. The findings of this research will serve to ascertain a better understanding of the role of alcohol on the sleep and health of older adults, specifically within a New Zealand context.
Networked, digital care and its impact on inequality related to the care of older people in NZ.
Media PHD Study
Various consumer software and devices, from Facebook to Fitbits, are becoming commonplace in the everyday lives of older people. These technologies promise social connection, convenience, security, increased health, and more autonomy. My doctoral research aims to explore the impact that internet enabled technologies have on how older people living within their own homes care for themselves and others.
My research involves qualitative interviewing as well as analysis of marketing and instructional materials. I am interested in how older people adapt technologies to suit their needs and how technologies encourage older people to adapt themselves.
I have a particular interest in how this impacts social inequalities. Many contemporary internet- enabled technologies are ultimately concerned with predicting and eliciting particular behaviours. They are designed, funded, and produced by large, powerful companies like Google.
There are serious questions being raised about how these companies use, collect, and store data. As these technologies become a standard requirement for carrying out everyday tasks like managing health, managing finances, and staying in touch, not having access becomes an increasing disadvantage.
The social effects of internet enabled technology use among older people in Aotearoa/New Zealand have as yet, been understudied in the critical humanities tradition. Given the potential to compound, and even disrupt, social inequalities, this is a vital line of enquiry.
Lived experience of older Chinese immigrants living in aged care facilities in Auckland
University of Auckland
Education and Social Work PhD study
The aim of this study is to give voice to older Chinese immigrants to explore and express their lived experience in a positive and supportive manner, and thereafter empower them to mobilise the changes needed to further enhance their ageing experience on personal, small group and community levels.
Aotearoa has an established Chinese immigrant community, consisting of a significant number of older people. While several studies have sought to identify the needs of this particular population, many of these studies adopt a deficit-based approach, with the assumption that their ageing experience is problematic, characterised by experiences of loneliness and alienation.
The views of the older Chinese immigrants are sometimes (mis)interpreted by researchers through the processes of translation and coding. The study will employ photovoice - a qualitative, visual research method, allowing participants to document and reflect on their life conditions as they see them. It is also an educational tool to empower participants to recognise their own needs, promote dialogue, encourage action, and inform policy.
At the end of the project, there will be a photography exhibition to showcase the wonderful stories of the participants. Throughout the project, the researcher will keep a photographic journal, using the photo-text technique, to record and reflect on research progress and personal growth.
Inhibiting malic enzymes in the fight against cancer
University of Auckland
Masters in Biological Sciences
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death both worldwide and in New Zealand. During 2020, New Zealand recorded 35,934 new cancer cases, with 10,508 cancer-related deaths, accounting for over 30% of all deaths during the calendar year, with over 50% of these being aged 60 or older. Consequently, the rapid development of highly selective and effective anticancer treatments is of utmost importance to improve cancer patients' duration and quality of life.
One of the emerging hallmarks of cancer is that it alters its metabolism to facilitate rapid cell growth, where cancer switches from aerobic to anaerobic respiration, altering the way it breaks down glucose. Malic enzymes are thought to play a crucial role in allowing this altered metabolic profile to function by converting malate into pyruvate in the mitochondria to maintain TCA cycle flux.
My research involves looking into two known small molecule inhibitors of malic enzyme 2, NPD-389 and embonic acid. The aim is to use biophysical methods to characterize the malic enzyme inhibitors and undertake crystallization studies to determine the exact binding interactions between the inhibitors and the enzymes. This will tell us whether there is a potential for structural based drug design to improve the binding affinity of these inhibitors. Therefore, findings from this research will be extremely significant in deciding whether more extensive drug development should go ahead for malic enzyme 2 inhibitors.
Investigating the effect of nutrition on osteoarthritis of the knee
Human Nutrition PHD Study
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a pernicious malady, a slow and subtle disease characterised by progressive deterioration of all joint structures setting off a cascade of inflammation compounding the damage.
An estimated 9.6% of men and 18% of women over 60 years have symptomatic OA worldwide, making it the leading cause of disability in older adults and the most common form of joint disease.
One potential way to mitigate OA is to influence modifiable risk factors like diet. Diet could be used to reduce the destructive inflammatory state associated with OA. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet or a dietary intervention with anti-inflammatory properties, like Greenshell Mussel™(GSM), may be viable treatment options.
The aim of this PhD is to look at the effects of nutrition on osteoarthritis through the following objectives:
- Investigate associations between femoral condyle ultrasound data, cartilage degradation biomarker data (Cartilage Oligomeric Matrix Protein, COMP and C-terminal telopeptide of collagen type II, CTX-II) and Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) data.
- Investigate the effects of Greenshell™ mussel (GSM) as a dietary intervention to ameliorate the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis.
- Investigate associations between the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) score and signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Information processing and purchase behaviour of older consumers
Marketing PhD Study
Despite the many unique challenges of 2020, I have made considerable steps in my PhD research which investigates the purchase behaviour and brand preferences of older consumers.
Many thanks must go to the Hope Foundation and generous donors for the financial support that has greatly assisted this research. This is especially so in a year where university budgets have taken a hit and the ability to access research funds has become more difficult.
In 2019 I conducted an on-line survey exploring the brand choices of New Zealand consumers in a variety of product and service categories. I have spent most of 2020 analysing this data and writing multiple journal and conference articles based on these findings. These articles provide useful contributions to understanding how ageing factors such as cognitive decline and accumulated purchase experience impact brand awareness and consideration.
I have also worked on a journal article that examines the prescription behaviour of General Practitioners (GPs) to establish whether the prescription patterns of older GPs differ from younger GPs, and whether these differences are a result of experience, cognitive decline, or usage decline.
The analysis incorporates panel data inclusive of over 2.7 million new or switch prescriptions written by 1,500 UK doctors over a 23-year period. This article will be submitted to a special issue for the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.
Overall, throughout 2020 I have nearly completed four ‘PhD ready’ journal articles that will be joined together in my PhD by publication. I am extremely pleased with this progress and the strides I have made in uncovering how ageing processes impact consumer behaviour.
I feel privileged to be able to acknowledge the support of the Hope Foundation in these submissions and to contribute to knowledge on ageing and its effects on New Zealand communities. The Hope Foundation Scholarship has allowed me the opportunity to not only conduct ageing-based research but also the chance to develop immensely as an academic, evidence-based researcher. I am truly grateful for the support!
Maintaining social inclusion for people with dementia.
Health Science PhD study
People with dementia value and wish to maintain connections with their family and friends but they are at risk of shrinking social networks due to stigma and other barriers to inclusion (including changes in communication skills). Social connection is a core psychological need and communication is a human right, but currently people with dementia are not provided with post diagnostic support to maintain these skills.
My research aims to find out from people living with dementia and other stakeholders, their perspectives on optimal ways to maintain social engagement and live as well as possible.
This exploratory study will draw on an exploratory qualitative methodology, Interpretive Description, to find out what strategies and resources people with dementia and other stakeholders identify as being most valuable to maintain social inclusion. Their perspectives and experiences will inform our understanding of desired supports. The knowledge generated can be used for enhanced service planning for the future needs of people with dementia.
Later life work decisions of older Asian workers in New Zealand
Auckland University of Technology
Clinical Sciences PhD study
This study aims to understand the later life work decisions of older Asian workers in New Zealand (NZ). The research questions of this study are:
- What are the demographic, health and wellbeing, social, occupational, financial, and other life-course factors that influence later life work decisions of older Asian workers in NZ?
- How do older Asian workers describe their experience of working in later life?
- What are the socio-cultural values and beliefs of work in later life for older Asian workers?
The preliminary quantitative phase of this study will use data from a nationally representative health, work, and retirement survey (2018). The second phase will use in-depth interviews to understand the working experience of older Asian workers.
A growing number of older Asians are working in later life but there has been little research done to understand why. It is only by understanding the later life work decisions of older Asian workers that their workforce involvement can be supported and promoted.
The Relationship between loneliness and Quality of Life in Informal Dementia Caregivers.
Clinical Psychology PhD study
My research aims to find out from people living with dementia and other stakeholders, their perspectives on optimal ways to maintain social engagement and live as well as possible. This study will draw on an exploratory qualitative methodology, Interpretive Description, to find out what strategies and resources people with dementia and other stakeholders identify as being most valuable to maintain social inclusion. Their perspectives and experiences will inform our understanding of desired supports. The knowledge generated can be used for enhanced service planning for the future needs of people with dementia.
Family or informal caregivers are the cornerstone of support for people with dementia in New Zealand, providing an estimated $7.3 - $17.6 billion dollars of care per year (Alzheimer’s New Zealand, 2012). Demographic shifts towards an aging population and shifts in the epidemiology of illness from acute to chronic suggests that New Zealanders are likely to spend their retirement needing or providing care.
Loneliness is believed to be associated with a cluster of life events commonly experienced in old age such as, change in living conditions and lifestyle, loss of close relationships and other life events (Dykstra, 2009). Caregiving is an activity that can precipitate the onset of these changes.
This research will investigate the relationships between informal caregiving stress, loneliness, and health, conceptualised as quality of life (QoL).
This research will increase our understanding of the development of loneliness and its influence on quality of life for informal carers.
Automated Breast Cancer Diagnostics using digital Image Elasto Tomography for population screening.
University of Canterbury
Mechanical Engineering PhD Study
My research is predominantly focused on developing breast cancer diagnostic methods that can be used with an emerging non-invasive breast screening technology – Digital Image Elasto Tomography (DIET).
A DIET prototype has been used in a clinical trial wth Canterbury Breastcare to test for breast cancer by applying a sinusoidal vibration to the breast tissue and capturing the surface motion for a number of subjects. This surface motion can be converted into displacement data and used to infer elastic properties of the tissue to aid with diagnostics (due to tumors being 4-10 times stiffer than healthy tissue).
The DIET technology has the potential to revolutionise breast cancer screening resulting in a non-invasive, low cost screening modality that is safe to use for all ages and comfortable for the patient. The viscous damping method has the potential to be fully automated, removing the need for skilled personnel and enabling an increase in testing frequency due to the low cost and computational simplicity.
The expected increase in compliance due to increased comfort using DIET, as well as the higher frequency of testing, will result in earlier detection of breast cancer at a more curable stage. This will lower mortality and reduce the burden that breast cancer has on women and ageing women in particular.
How to apply for a HOPE Foundation Scholarship
Application forms are available from the Scholarship office of all the major Universities in NZ. The closing date for ap- plication each year is 31 October and successful applications are notified in early December the same year. Each scholar- ship is awarded for one year, but can be applied for more than once, as PhD research projects span several years.
Friends of the HOPE Foundation
Unusual times, but life must go on
We live in unusual times, when the freedom we have always enjoyed can be curtailed at any moment by the proliferation of a miniscule destructive virus in the community.
Planned events are cancelled, giving rise to a mixture of feelings of great regret but also satisfaction, as the safety of people is important. This is not a complaint, as we can only be glad for the way New Zealand has coped with the Corona 19 virus and our thoughts are extended to those, in other countries, who have had to suffer the full-on effects of the virus. Hopefully, the promised vaccine will be in our communities soon and remove our collective underlying anxiety.
It is with great sadness that I inform you that Marie Quinn MNZM, a member of our Friends Committee for many years, passed away in March. Marie lived a life of giving and caring. Her family came first, followed by her local Catholic Church, and then causes in the community. She had great business and political skills and was an Auckland City Councillor in the 1980s. Supporting leaders in the political parties was a significant role she developed. Marie especially saw the need to campaign for a Commissioner for the Elderly at a Government level. While such a role has not yet been established, hopefully with the increasing number of older people in New Zealand, it will eventually happen. The Friends Committee will miss Marie Quinn very much.
We continue to plan for the future, as life must go on. Towards the end of the year there will be an indoor event on a Sunday afternoon.
In March 2022 we are planning to hold a WALK/RUN for HOPE in Cornwall Park. This is an event for all ages- young and old. Younger and fit people can run the 10/5 kms circuit and more mature people can walk the course or part of it. Even wheelchairs and prams can take part. If you are on our mailing list, you will receive information about it. Do share this event with your friends and families. It will be great fun and a wonderful start to 2022.
We thank you for your interest in The HOPE Foundation and look forward to meeting many of you in person at our next function.
We are always happy to hear from you. You can contact the committee through The HOPE Foundation email: email@example.com
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