Health Sciences South Carolina Announces New Senior Focused Research Center

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Seniors are the fastest growing population in South Carolina. As this population continues to grow, so does the need for supporting independent living in order to limit the strain on private assisted living facilities as well as the State's systems. Investigators at the South Carolina Center of Economic Excellence are developing sensor-based technology dedicated to preserving independent living and quality of life standards for senior citizens. The SeniorSmart technology will help seniors maintain intellectual activity and promote independent mobility both inside and outside the home.

The South Carolina Center of Economic Excellence Review Board has approved $5 million in state funding for a new Health Sciences South Carolina CoEE dedicated to research that promotes independence for senior citizens.

Called SeniorSMARTâ„¢, the newly approved HSSC research center will be structured around three major themes: SHARP BRAIN, focusing on helping seniors maintain intellectual activity; SMART WHEELS, which will promote independent mobility outside the home; and SMART HOME, helping seniors maintain independent mobility inside the home. Research will commence when the state's $5 million award is matched one-to-one by private, federal or municipal funds.

HSSC President Jay Moskowitz, PhD, said the new CoEE is a reflection of HSSC's mission to use health sciences research to advance the health of South Carolina's citizens and advance the state's economy. Furthermore, it offers South Carolina a strong leadership role in the high-growth senior health and quality of life marketplace.

"Our country is just beginning to experience explosive growth in its senior population as the Baby Boomer Generation reaches retirement age. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that South Carolina's senior population will grow by 133 percent between 2000 and 2030. We need to be prepared to keep our seniors healthy and capable of independent living for as long as possible. The SeniorSMART CoEE couldn't be better timed to meet our state's public health needs, to develop commercial products and services, as well as capitalize on a growing population of consumers with significant economic clout," Dr. Moskowitz said.

The HSSC SeniorSMART CoEE will involve HSSC partners Clemson University, the University of South Carolina (USC), Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, and Palmetto Health. Eventually, a fifth HSSC partner, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), also will be involved. Paul Eleazer, MD, professor, Internal Medicine, USC School of Medicine, will serve as the principal investigator for SeniorSMART. He will work alongside Dennis Poole, PhD, dean, USC College of Social Work; William Logan, MD, director, Geriatrics, Greenville Hospital System; Victor Hirth, MD, USC-Palmetto Geriatrics; Johnell Brooks, PhD, Clemson University; Harriett Williams, PhD, and James Laditka, DA, PhD, MPA, USC Arnold School of Public Health; and Judy Baskins, RN, Palmetto Health-USC.

While the HSSC SeniorSMART CoEE will be housed primarily at USC's Columbia campus, research will be conducted statewide, leveraging the intellectual assets of the HSSC partners. in some cases, departments not always associated with the health sciences will be involved. "We hope to take advantage of USC's engineering, social work, and medical schools to develop new ways of retrofitting residences so that the elderly can stay in their own homes longer and enjoy a better quality of life. Additionally, researchers will conduct studies at Clemson's International Center for Automotive Research to develop cars that help older adults retain their ability to drive safely as they continue to age. Each of the HSSC partners will bring something to the table as we work to advance senior independence," Dr. Eleazer said.

HSSC Board Chair and Greenville Hospital System CEO Mike Riordan added that not only will the HSSC SeniorSMART CoEE capitalize on and enrich existing research strengths in South Carolina like gerontology and automotive design; it also will enhance the quality of life for all South Carolinians. "All of us face the issue of caring for aging parents, an aging spouse and ourselves. If we can devise ways to keep seniors healthy, active and independent now, we will avoid major problems in the future," Riordan said.

About Health Sciences South Carolina:
Established in April 2004, Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) is a statewide public-private collaborative of universities and health systems possessing the shared vision of using health sciences research to improve the health and economic wellbeing of South Carolina. HSSC includes Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of South Carolina, Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, Palmetto Health, and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

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Jean Triskett