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Astronauts and older adults in acute care

Long periods of inactivity. Just as weightlessness in space can adversely impact the health of astronauts, long periods of bed rest can be seriously detrimental to the wellness of older adults.

To understand the risks of inactivity on the human body and the effectiveness of preventative measures, a recent research partnership between the Canadian Space Agency and Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Frailty Network will see older adults, between the ages of 55 and 65 years of age, followed during a bed rest study.

“As a former astronaut, I can say that being weightless in space is a truly remarkable experience. Ensuring that we can understand the effects of space on the human body is invaluable for the health and wellness of astronauts,” says the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Taking place at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal, the study will explore and compare the physiological changes experienced by astronauts in space to those experienced by older adults on bed rest.

Studies have already shown that the relevant biological changes are similar to decades of normal human aging. Now researchers want their work to help inform how we provide care to patients who are experiencing varying and extended periods of inactivity. Their goals—to ultimately develop solutions for improving the quality of life of older adults and identify measures to support patients who are transition from one care setting to another.

During their research, the teams will also look for ways to mitigate and prevent damage and associated health risks. Results can hopefully provide insights and understanding of how the right amount of exercise can contribute to living a longer, healthier life.

The grant provided by the Government of Canada is $3.34 million. Funds will be used to support eight teams of researchers whose data collection will begin in the Spring of 2021. The study is a component of the larger Transitions in Care Initiative.

Transitions in care

This research is being done as part of the Transitions in Care (TiC) Initiative. At some point in their life, almost every Canadian will experience a transition in care, when, as patients, they move from one care provider or institution to another. Examples include moving from receiving pediatric care to adult care, from the emergency department or from hospital to home care, from rehabilitation and long-term care facilities, or through accessing health services from rural areas to health services in a city. As patients move from one setting of care to another, there is a risk to their health because of the potential for miscommunication between care providers.

The TiC Initiative aims to improve health care systems by identifying and reducing gaps that can exist during a transfer of care, and by scaling up innovative solutions to address them.

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