Aging is a multifactorial phenomenon extending over the entire life span. It is accompanied by changes in sensory, motor, and cognitive functions relevant to a wide range of everyday life activities and vocational success. But these changes are just the endpoints of a complex process triggered by a variety of different factors like lifestyle, work conditions, stress, but also diseases, infections, and genes. An important step for future aging research will be to clarify the interactions of these factors and how they change over (life) time.
Aging does not only mean loss and decline in functioning. There are numerous examples that these changes can – at least in part – be offset by efficient compensation strategies, experiences developed during life time, as well as intervention programs such as cognitive or physical training. Uncovering the potential of compensation and intervention strategies is an important task for the future, especially 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 by means of behavioral and neurophysiological methods, exploring and modeling the interplay of endogenous and environmental influencing factors, and their consequences for the workplace. Age-related changes usually occur gradually. We therefore take a development-oriented perspective and look at both longer-term time periods and certain critical age ranges where serious changes are expected to take place. Examples are the Dortmund Vital Study and the DoBoLSiS project. These two longitudinal projects in man 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
Understanding age-related processes is of high scientific interest. But at least just as important is the question of how far healthy aging can be actively promoted, be it by interventions in form of learning and training, methods of brain stimulation, or the use of accommodative strategies. Examples of compensation are explored in our project to audio-visual speech perception. A more intervention-based approach is applied in the TRAIN-STIM project combining training interventions and non-invasive brain stimulation. In the future, technology-based, human-centered approaches will more and more support older people. The DisDrive study explores the supporting function of training and technical solutions in the driving context. The development of technical solutions is also at the heart of the sustAGE project intended to enhance 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 21 scientific institutes of the Leibniz Association, and support the European Cognitive Aging Society (EUCAS).