Aging is a multifactorial phenomenon extending over the entire life span. Age-related changes in sensory, motor and cognitive functions, however, are are just the endpoints of a complex process triggered by a multitude of different factors. Lifestyle, working conditions, stress, but also diseases, infections and genes are to be mentioned here. An important task of aging research is therefore to clarify the interactions of these factors and how they change over (life) time.
Aging does not only mean loss and decline in functioning. Numerous examples show that these changes can be compensated – at least partially – by efficient compensatory strategies, lifelong experiences, and intervention programs such as mental or physical training. Uncovering the potential of compensation and intervention strategies is an important task for the future. This is especially true against the background of demographic change and its impact on the labor market.
Central goals of the networking group Aging are (a) to increase our understanding of the mechanisms of healthy aging and (b) to explore and evaluate approaches to preserve mental abilities, well-being, and working ability. Our research focuses on three areas: auditory perception and speech comprehension, mobility in old age, and learning and training.
Healthy Aging: Determinants and Interactions
We investigate changes in cognitive functions in middle-aged and older people using behavioral and neurophysiological methods, exploring and modeling the interplay of endogenous and environmental influencing factors, and their consequences for the workplace. We thereby adopt a developmental perspective and and consider both longer-term time periods and specific critical age ranges in which serious changes are to be expected. Examples are the Dortmund Vital Study and the DoBoLSiS project. These two longitudinal projects on humans are flanked by the Mice-to-Men project, a behavioral study on the influence of endogenous and environmental factors.
Preserving and improving well-being and working ability
In addition to understanding age-related processes, the question of how far healthy aging can be actively promoted is of high scientific and societal interest. Examples of the use of compensatory strategies are investigated in our projects on audiovisual speech perception and on the use of audio-visual VR technologies in human-machine interaction. Technology-based, human-centered approaches will increasingly support older people in the future. The development of such a solution is the focus of the sustAGE project to improve the occupational safety, productivity and health of older workers.
The IfADo offers a broad range of competences in aging research, from the biochemical and cellular to the behavioral level. A central goal of our work is to bundle this research competences and to achieve synergic effects in aging research. We are active in the Leibniz Research Alliance “Healthy Ageing”, an interdisciplinary collaboration of institutes of the Leibniz Association, and in the Masterplan 2.0 of the City of Dortmund in the competence field “Demographic Change”, and support the European Cognitive Aging Society (EUCAS).