2017-18 Summer Students

Posted by on 11 December 2017

These $6000 scholarships are awarded to support high achieving students at Auckland University with 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. Since 1995, the HOPE-Selwyn Foundation has funded 37 of these scholarships. This is in addition to the 73 post graduate National research scholarships. Lauren Spence and Marcus Lau are the two very worthy recipients of the HOPE-Selwyn Summer Scholarships for 2017/18

Lauren Spence, Auckland University

Older people’s experiences of social isolation and loneliness in aged residential care

laurenspenceKia ora, my name is Lauren Spence and I am a third year medical student at The University of Auckland. My proposed research is on older people’s experiences of social isolation and loneliness in aged residential care facilities. This project will involve conducting an integrative literature review using systematic methods in order to identify what is internationally known about the experiences and determinants of loneliness and social isolation amongst older people living in aged residential care facilities. The findings will inform the development of a new grant application to address this important, yet under researched issue.

Recent research has indicated that approximately half of older New Zealanders experience some level of loneliness at any point in time, with eight to nine per cent experiencing loneliness most of the time. This is significant, as loneliness is a major contributor of poor self-reported health and a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality.

A current National Science Challenge funded project led by Professor Merryn Gott is adding new information to the international evidence base by exploring how older people understand and experience social isolation and loneliness across different cultural groups and identifying the role of befriending services in addressing these issues. Early analyses have identified a key gap in current knowledge and understanding, namely the experience of social isolation and loneliness amongst older people living in retirement villages and residential aged care settings. Thank you to the HOPE- Selwyn Foundation for sponsoring this research.

Marcus Lau, Auckland University

What happens to octogenarians presenting to hospital with a fall?

marcuslauOne in every two community dwelling people over the age of 80 will fall within one year. Falls are not only a significant cause of injury in older adults but also a significant contributor to hospital admissions, decline in functional activities, institutionalisation and post-fall anxiety. Most importantly, it is critical to understand that falls can also be a strong indicator of potential frailty, morbidity and mortality in this age group. We wish to delve into cases to ascertain whether assessment at the ‘front door’ of secondary care, leads to a potential management gap. While WDHB collects ongoing data regarding in-patient falls, we are not aware of any information regarding input or outcomes of patients presenting to hospital with a fall.

My research project aims to answer just that, with several underlying questions including: What proportion of patients presenting with a fall represent so-called ‘hot falls’, that is a fall that is associated with an underlying acute medical event. Are falls risk factors identified and addressed? Are frail older adults referred for geriatric assessment (inpatient or outpatient)?  Are prevention strategies addressed, for example are patients referred for community physiotherapy or advised on appropriate exercise strategies? Are patients with fractures started on appropriate secondary prevention? What information is communicated back to primary care physicians regarding the hospital presentations in discharge summaries? Results from this study will hopefully be used to improve care for frail older adults presenting to hospital.

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