APA Honors Dr. Sara J. Czaja for Developing Strategies to Improve Quality of Life for the Aging

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Scientific Director of the Center on Aging, was honored recently by the American Psychological Association (APA) for her numerous contributions to the field of applied gerontology.

“For the past 21 years, our team at the Center on Aging has looked at the development and implementation of strategies to improve the quality of life for older people,” said Czaja. “Much of this work has involved the use of technology. For example, we recently designed and evaluated an easy-to-use technology application, and demonstrated that use of the system which permitted communicating with family and old friends, sharing photos, and taking part in other online activities can significantly reduce feelings of social isolation and loneliness, which can be very detrimental to both physical and mental well-being.”

Dr. Harvey Sterns, president of the APA’s Division 20, Adult Development and Aging presented the 2015 M. Powell Lawton Distinguished Contribution Award for Applied Gerontology to Czaja at the association’s 123rd annual meeting held recently in Toronto.

“Dr. Powell did groundbreaking work in understanding the barriers to independent living for the elderly and developing strategies to overcome those barriers,” said Czaja. “It is an honor to follow his path.”

At the Center on Aging, Czaja has focused on the role of technology in promoting healthy, productive and successful aging in health care, work and home settings.

Czaja recently received a five-year, $7.8 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to fund the fourth research phase of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE IV), the third funding renewal for this program over its 21-year lifespan. The multidisciplinary center, a collaboration with the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Miami College of Engineering, Florida State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, was founded in 1999 to help older adults use technology to increase their independence, productivity, health, safety, social connectedness and quality of life.

“Technology is ubiquitous and we also want to be sure that technology is designed for use by aging adults, particularly low-income and minority seniors who are at higher risk for health problems,” Czaja said. “Being socially connected is really a key to successful aging, helping to reduce depression and other kinds of emotional disorders, as well as chronic conditions and mortality.”

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