The Population Aging Research Center (PARC) at the University of Pennsylvania has over 25 years of experience of creating the right setting for interdisciplinary research on the demography and economics of aging, including a focus on diverse and often underrepresented populations domestically and globally. The Population Aging Research Center (PARC) was established in 1994 with a grant from the National Institute on Aging. However, PARC is ever-changing; to capitalize on its strong relationships built across Schools and Centers at Penn and a plethora of new hires interested in population-aging research, PARC innovates in this renewal application by initiating a partnership between the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM).
Through this SAS-PSOM partnership and accompanying new leadership structure, PARC is able to stimulate and support an expanded multidisciplinary aging research agenda that is innovative and transformative, domestic and global, theory-based and deeply rooted in a life-course understanding of health and aging processes, ambitious in its breath ranging from basic science to applied policy-relevant studies, and comprehensive in encompassing an expanded scope of NIA priority themes:
- Health Care and Long-Term Care in Older Adults: investigations of the strain that aging societies place on the health care system, both acute care and long-term services and support (LTSS), how to best meet the needs of older and disabled adults, how to measure and finance the medical burden of aging societies.
- Cognition and Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia (ADRD): examinations of the precursors of cognitive decline and the effects of cognitive decline, including ADRD, on patients, caregivers, and health care systems, domestically and around the globe.
- Health Disparities in Aging: analyses of socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, nativity, geographic, and gender inequalities in health and mortality, including period/cohort risks and their underlying social/biological causes.
- Early Life-Conditions and Older Adult Health, Behavior and Well-Being: explorations of early developmental circumstances that may be crucial for shaping how we age, including nutrition, infectious disease, social support, education, and gene-environment interactions prenatally and during childhood.
- Global Aging and Health: studies of sociocultural, economic, and environmental circumstances impacting the well-being of older individuals around the world, and analyses of physical, mental and cognitive aging trajectories in diverse and understudied populations across a wide spectrum of socioeconomic development.
More broadly, our aims and ambitions for PARC for the next five years include:
- Provide administrative, technical, and infrastructure support to PARC research associates and affiliates for the production and dissemination of high-quality population-based research on the life-course as it relates to the process of aging, and to facilitate a productive, synergistic, and intellectual dialogue among and between PARC associates and other researchers at Penn and other institutions. This inlcudes coordinating the Penn Population Studies Colloquium.
- Encourage transformative research through innovation and nurturing crossdisciplinary collaborations, by targeting the development of junior faculty towards careers in population aging, and promoting and facilitating long-term careers for participating research scientists.
- Extend and exploit the PARC’s strong scientific and professional domestic & international population engagement through PARC's Research Networks that share cross-cutting interests with PARC’s Research Themes.
- Ensure PARC’s continued central position at the research frontier of data-driven research on the demography and economics of aging, by
(i) expanding PARC’s research networks and primary data collection efforts;
(ii) leveraging the new SAS-PSOM partnership to gain access to unprecedented amounts of secondary data and
(iii) strategically cultivating new data resources that will enhance the research potential of PARC associates and members of PARC’s Research Networks for path-breaking research.
5. Extend PARC’s scientific reach and impact through a comprehensive dissemination strategy, from pilot to peer-review publication, including training on dissemination, curating population aging interested audiences, disseminating of non-academic publications (issue briefs). In additon to the new issue briefs series, the continuing Population Center Working Papers (PSC/PARC) series housed in Penn's publicly accessible intritutional repository, the ScholarlyCommons@Penn.
Interdisciplinary, co-operative research to advance knowledge in the demography and economics of aging requires an adaptive scientific infrastructure. The Population Aging Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania is an intellectual platform at the crucial juncture of the behavioral, social, and health sciences. The accounting and analytic frameworks of PARC, anchored in demography and health economics, provides insights to help meet the research and evidence needs to promote successful and equitable aging for individuals, and to inform effective health policy responses in aging societies, in the U.S. as well as globally.
We are excited to lead PARC during these next five years, and we are thankful to be able to work with an impressive group of PARC Associates across many of Penn's Schools and Centers. We are grateful for your support of our NIA P30 application, and for the support by SAS and PSOM Dean's Offices for this new vision for PARC. We are of course building on a foundation of PARC research and networks that were developed by Irma Elo, and before Sam Preston, Beth Soldo and Claudia Valeggia. The new vision for PARC would not have been possible without the dedication and efforts by those who led PARC before us.
Please have a socially distant toast on the successful renewal of the NIA PARC P30 funding. Stay tuned for further updates and PARC activities, including our fall workshop on "COVID-19, Aging and Aging Research." We look forward to working with you in the next five years, and seeing you -- virtually or physically on Penn's campus -- very soon.
Hans-Peter Kohler & Norma B. Coe
Co-Directors, Population Aging Research Center