Clearing the fog of geriatrics: Applying complex system thinking to the health and care of older adults

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 (all day)

Speaker: Joshua Armstrong

Joshua Armstrong, PhD candidate in health studies & gerontology (University of Waterloo), discusses the application of complex systems thinking to the health and care of older adults. Robert S. McNamara uses the term "fog of war" to describe the uncertainty that is raised by the multifaceted situations that are often found in times of conflict. Analogous to war, geriatric medicine is packed with uncertainty, numerous interacting and non-independent features, non-linear relationships, and numerous potential outcomes (i.e., full recovery, mortality, hospitalization, institutionalization). This complexity in the health and care of older adults is what I have termed "the fog of geriatrics." Within this “fog” occur a number of prevalent geriatric syndromes including age-related cognitive decline, delirium, and frailty. These health conditions greatly impact the quality of life and disability status of many older individuals, however, there is currently little known about their etiologies, pathologies, and prevention strategies. This presentation will examine the complexity found within health and care of older adults and suggest that geriatric medicine research shift away from the reductionist approach that is most often used in biomedical research.

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