Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
The Institute of Gerontology’s latest report is a summary of our achievements, research studies, student training, community engagement and other highlights of the past two years. Now as never before, it is crucial to devote scientific enterprise, research excellence and community programs to aging issues. Read how we rose through the challenges of a pandemic to continue, and even expand, our important work to understand and improve the process of aging. See links to detailed articles on select topics at the end of the Report.
Reaching New Levels
In what Director Dr. Peter Lichtenberg calls the “second golden age" of the IOG, grant support won by faculty members is extremely high. “Several years ago, some of the IOG’s highly productive senior faculty were recruited to other universities,” Dr. Lichtenberg explained. “It takes time for newer junior faculty to build their research programs, qualifications and experience. All their hard work is now resulting in major grant awards and research findings. It is an exciting time in the history of the IOG.”
Aging begins at birth. The IOG’s Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience Research Program includes faculty experts in the structure and function of brain development across childhood, midlife and late-life. Since 2001, they have led a continuous study on how the brain changes with age. They seek early predictors of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. They assess the impact of stress, high blood pressure, fitness and nutrition on brain aging. And they study how the young developing brain responds to environmental and genetic factors. 
How we respond to the demands and opportunities of aging depends on our culture and the environment we live in. IOG faculty include two anthropologists and a professor of health communication. They strive to understand the disparities that negatively impact healthy aging. They’ve studied the older Detroiters who fish the Detroit River for food, and the older African Americans who garden to improve well-being. They are dedicated to helping Detroit residents understand and prevent health risks and stay connected to accurate health information. 
Covid-19 and the Aging Brain
By Dr. Ana Daugherty
Is Covid-19 a risk factor for dementia? No one yet knows for certain, but the virus can prompt inflammation and cell damage throughout the body, including the brain. We do know that the months of social isolation and inactivity enforced on older adults can increase dementia risk. Dr. Ana Daugherty shares her insights on the critical research needed on post-Covid brain health.
Listening, Learning & Doing Better
Dr. Carrie Leach rose from an uncertain high school graduate to, decades later, earning a PhD in health communication and community engagement. In addition to her role as an assistant professor, Dr. Leach is the program manager of the Community Engagement Core of CURES and co-director of Community Inclusion for WSU's new Center for Health Equity and Community Knowledge for Urban Populations (CHECK-UP). She is passionate about spreading scientific information in ways people can use to make informed decisions. "Without health knowledge, it is hard to improve people's health," she said. "I know we can do better.”
No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but these faculty members carefully analyze data to make intelligent predictions about the future of aging. Working in health economics, methodology, minority health, and the politics and policy of aging, they have studied the effects of health system reform on older adults, assessed the future needs of older adults in several Michigan counties, and warned of an impending impoverished population of older adults struggling to pay for rent and health needs. Within six months of the pandemic’s start, faculty also analyzed Census Bureau and other data sets to demonstrate Covid's dire impact on the mental health of older Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.
The FBI reports that 105,301 older adults were victims of financial fraud in 2020, losing an astounding $1 billion. IOG faculty recognized this threat years ago when they launched research to identify the vulnerable and created online tools to determine risk of exploitation and inform and protect older adults. is a free, easy-to-navigate website for older adults, caregivers and professionals to help assess financial decision-making and vulnerability to exploitation. The SAFE (Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment) program works in tandem to counsel, educate and recover funds for victims of fraud and identity theft. SAFE has saved or recovered more than $120,000 for victims.
Red Flags Connect Memory Loss & Money Loss
What are early reliable signs a person is having trouble making sound financial decisions? The IOG’s WALLET Study investigates critical changes in how people with early memory loss manage their money. Researchers hope to isolate key red flags that warn of vulnerability to exploitation and money loss before the person is victimized. WALLET analyzes credit card use, bill paying and checking account management. Excessive expenditures in one category, and insufficient checking funds or penalty fees are top indicators of pending wealth loss, especially if the person has mild cognitive impairment.
Post-Doctoral Fellows
Students who have earned their PhDs and are serious about pursuing gerontology as an integral part of their career, can apply for a post-doctoral fellowship at the IOG. We provide one-on-one mentorship, financial support, and a unique interdisciplinary atmosphere focused on aging. Recent fellows have gone on to professorial positions at Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, Arizona State and Chang Gung University in Taiwan. Others have chosen a non-academic route, taking positions at the Centers for Disease Control at Denver Public Health, and an expert contractor at Google.  
Graduates of IOG training aim high and achieve impressively. They often secure positions at top research and teaching universities where they continue to publish, win awards and receive promotions. Latest highlights include books on racism, poverty and drugs, and the psychology of aging. Alumni are represented at Yale, the University of Southern California and Columbia University, among others. Their impact on aging is immeasurable. Clockwise above: Dr. Taylor, Dr. Duck and Dr. Brian Yochim, who developed a Verbal Naming Test to assess cognitive impairment by phone and in persons with poor vision.
The World on Lockdown, the IOG Connects with Thousands
The special constraints of a pandemic helped IOG programs reach more older adults and professionals from across the country than ever before in its history. The transition to online programs melted geographical boundaries. Attendance skyrocketed. We've trained professionals in North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Florida, and across Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula.

"We do miss seeing each other in person," said Donna MacDonald, the IOG's director of outreach. "And we look forward to a safe time in the future when we can do that. But the ability to connect with others remotely is a powerful tool, especially for older adults and caregivers who have difficulty attending. Now they don't have to worry about transportation, handicapped access or who will care for their loved one.”
Healthier Black Elders Center
Critical Crossroads
HBEC Community Advisory Board members created Crossroads to engage in community conversations, advocacy, and strategies around social injustice. Many issues of inequity have been brought to the forefront this past year, such as racism, discrimination, police misconduct, health disparities and more. The HBEC Advisory Board hopes to present on many of these issues to maintain community dialogue, awareness and provide resources for action.
Party Line
An innovative off-shoot of the HBEC check-in calls is Party Line, a virtual social group for anyone feeling isolated. Started in December 2020 and hosted by the HBEC, Party Line topics were chosen by participants and ran the gamut from Motown Music to Cooking Memories to a Fitness Challenge. About 12 people connected regularly to the free group. The group's facilitator described them as lively, sometimes surprising and often educational.

The IOG Endowment: Invest in the Future of Aging
Three years ago, the IOG created its first ever endowment to provide unrestricted, long-term funding to support our mission. Funds are carefully invested and all earnings are added to the endowment so it continues to grow.

Our endowment is already at $2 million, in large part due to the leadership and generosity of our exceptional Board of Visitors (below). Our goal is to build the endowment to $2.5 million by 2024, generating 4.5% in income each year. These monies will support our research and enhance our mission, as the principal of the endowment continues in perpetuity.
Support goes both ways.
Your gifts help us support older adults everywhere.

Board of Visitors
The Board of Visitors represents a dynamic interplay of educators, executives, business owners, physicians, attorneys, financial planners, social workers and retirees -- all sharing a deep desire to help older adults. The IOG relies on its Board of Visitors to stay connected to the community. Members provide feedback and guidance, as well as financial and other support that greatly advances our mission. Many BOV members provided leadership gifts to help build the IOG Endowment to $2M in just a few years. IOG Board shown above at a recent Zoom meeting.

Links to Articles
EDITOR: Cheryl Deep / DESIGNER: Catherine Blasio
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