News

7.14.2015

Dr. Sara J. Czaja Receives $7.8 Million Research Grant for Continued Study on Aging and Technology

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Scientific Director of the Center on Aging, has been awarded a five-year grant of $7.8 million by 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), a PO1 NIH center grant.

The grant is Czaja’s third funding renewal of CREATE, which at the end of this new grant cycle will have received more than $30 million over its 21-year lifespan.

CREATE IV will focus on optimizing the role of technology in promoting healthy, productive and successful aging in health care, work and home settings.

“We will be looking not only at outcomes related to usability of technology, but also the impact of technology on factors such as quality of life and independent living,” said Czaja. “What are the specific barriers to access, and what strategies can we employ to ease access? We also will be focusing on diverse populations and emerging technologies.”

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.

“We have received strong support over the years, not only from the NIH, but also from our respective universities,” said Czaja. “CREATE has become kind of a brand name. It is very well recognized nationally and internationally.”

The center also develops and evaluates interventions and design solutions to promote successful technology adoption in older populations.

“Older adults are very receptive to using technology, and find it valuable if it is designed so that it is useful and usable,” said Czaja. “Neglecting the needs, preferences and abilities of older adults in the design process enhances the likelihood of digital disparities. This is especially true in health care, where patient portals tethered to electronic medical records and technology in the home for treating chronic conditions are becoming increasingly common.

“We have also found technology can be used to foster engagement. We recently completed a study where we placed computers with the specially designed software in the homes of isolated older adults aged 65-98 years. Our results showed that the intervention increased connectivity and social engagement — our participants reported less loneliness and more support.”

CREATE was the first group to receive the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s Jack A. Kraft Award for Innovation since its inception more than four decades ago.

“Dr. Czaja, a world leader at the interface of aging research and technology, has pioneered this now-burgeoning area of research,” said Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of the Center on Aging. “Her track record of continuous NIH funding is only one measure of her success. In the past year or two, she has been recognized with a multitude of honors and awards from several national and international organizations, including the Nobel Institute in Sweden and the White House. We are so fortunate to have such an intellectual star in our department, school and university.”

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