Agency to Study Disabilities & Healthy Aging

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) has proposed a new research effort regarding the promotion of healthy aging for individuals with long-term physical disabilities.
     The research is a proposed priority under the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) program administered by the NIDRR, which is tasked with “achieving the goal of, and improving the effectiveness of, services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act through advanced research, training, technical assistance and dissemination activities in general problem areas, as specified by NIDRR.”
     The NIDRR reports that 29.5 million working age Americans, between 21 and 64, or 16.6 percent, reported disabilities, including those with life-long and early onset disabilities once associated with shortened life expectancy.
     That expectancy has changed, the NIDRR says.
     Working-age individuals with long-term disabilities are living longer and experiencing secondary health conditions due to their long-term disability, such as pain fatigue and weakness, according to the NIDRR. The onset of long-term disabilities also may cause accelerated aging due to earlier onset and higher rates of age-related chronic conditions compared to their same-age non-disabled counterparts. Those chronic conditions can include osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, falls, chronic respiratory conditions, diabetes and heart disease.
     “Addressing the rehabilitation and health care needs of individuals aging with disabilities involves challenges for providing and coordinating a range of appropriate health care services, financing those services, and evaluating their ongoing effectiveness,” the NIDRR stated. “Considerable anecdotal evidence and numerous small-scale studies indicate that the negative effects of secondary conditions can be managed and even prevented through rehabilitation and health-promotion activities.”
     The NIDRR also proposes a priority under the RRTC program that builds “the capacity of historically black colleges and universities and other minority entities to conduct disability and rehabilitation research and develop rehabilitation professionals to address the ongoing challenges of providing equal opportunity and benefits to individuals with disabilities from traditionally underserved minority backgrounds and communities.”

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