News Release

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Renewed NIH centers focus on translation of aging research

Researchers receiving funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) will seek ways to improve cognition, decision making, mobility and independence of older people. The awards, announced today, renew funds for 11 Edward R. Roybal Centers for Research on Applied Gerontology, and the designation of two new centers. The centers have been innovative models for moving promising social and behavioral research findings out of the laboratory and into programs and practices that can be applied every day to improve the health and well-being of older people. NIA is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“The Roybal Centers’ comprehensive research infrastructure facilitates collaborations among academic researchers and those in the public and private sectors who can help design and deliver novel approaches to a number of challenges of an aging society,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “Through a range of projects, the centers seek to find new and better ways to maintain mobility and physical function; support sound financial and medical decision making; aid cognitive function; manage pain; and enhance caregiving.”

In recent years, Roybal Centers have made major contributions to our understanding of how to improve rates of flu shots and colonoscopy screenings through development of an active choice model by the National Bureau of Economic Research Center for Behavior Change in Health and Saving. The Oregon Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging at Oregon Health & Science University has been using cutting-edge sensors to obtain real-time information on older people in their homes, balancing a need-to-know by caregivers and health care providers with the privacy of individuals. In addition to providing information on potential emergency situations, these data give researchers an unprecedented look at the daily lives of older people, which can be analyzed in many ways for many purposes.

This new round of support for translational centers is expected to total more than $23.4 million over the next five years, pending available funds. The majority of the funding comes from NIA. One of the new centers is receiving supplemental funds from the Social Security Administration.

The Roybal Centers were authorized by Congress in 1993 and named for former House Select Committee on Aging Chair Edward R. Roybal. “My father was a staunch supporter of the need for rigorous behavioral and social science research that would provide a strong evidence base for policies and programs,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.). “NIH is uniquely positioned to make that happen through its support of independent and innovative translational research. I am very proud of the work that the Roybal Centers do to make a difference in the lives of older Americans, and am glad that this renewed funding and the addition of these new facilities will enable more seniors to benefit from the Centers’ outstanding work.”

“Translational research is a two-way street,” said Richard Suzman, Ph.D., director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research. “By strengthening the feedback loops between basic research and applications to real-world problems, we are able to more quickly integrate findings into health care practice. In addition, what the centers learn from their research activities also shapes the design and direction of future research.”

The two new centers, their principal investigators and research focus are:

  • Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, Boston Royal Center. Margie E. Lachman, Ph.D. — This center will develop and test interventions to increase and sustain an active lifestyle to promote health and well-being, especially among those populations at risk for poor health outcomes.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Roybal Center. David L. Roth, Ph.D. — The center will conduct research on the informal support resources of vulnerable older adult populations, focusing on the transition of health care services from traditional institutions like nursing homes to home- and community-based models, which include key family members and caregivers.

The 11 Roybal Centers renewed for funding, their principal investigators and research focus are:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham, Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging and Mobility. Karlene K. Ball, Ph.D. — This center supports research evaluating the impact of visual, physical, cognitive, educational and social interventions to prevent or delay declines in mobility, independence, and quality of life that often accompany aging.
  • Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York City, Cornell Roybal Center-The Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life. M. Carrington Reid, M.D., Ph.D. — The center conducts research to translate the findings of behavior change science into novel interventions for older adults with pain.
  • National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Behavior Change in Health and Saving. David Laibson, Ph.D. — The center extends research on behavioral economics and successful financial decision making to choices about health behavior and the development of new interventions that improve health outcomes and financial well-being while reducing costs.
  • Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging. Jeffrey A. Kaye, M.D. — The center focuses on identifying technologies to help meet two critical challenges of aging: loss of mobility and decline in cognitive function. The center develops independent living technologies, supports aging-in-place research and pursues partnerships with industry and academia.
  • Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton Center for Translational Research on Aging. Janet M. Currie, Ph.D. — This center is developing new methods to measure well-being to understand and document the experience of aging comparatively in the United States and in other countries. The measures are being used to analyze how different life circumstances and situations contribute to overall quality of life across the lifespan.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago, Midwest Roybal Center for Health Promotion and Translation. Susan L. Hughes, D.S.W. — This center tests, builds and disseminates health promotion programs that may help older adults prevent disability and maintain their independence in the community.
  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Penn Roybal Center on Behavioral Economics and Health. Kevin Volpp, M.D., Ph.D. — The center conducts studies that foster the translation of approaches from behavioral economics to the improvement of health care behaviors and health care delivery for older adults.
  • University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Roybal Center for Health Decision Making and Financial Independence in Old Age. Arie Kapteyn, Ph.D. — This center seeks to understand how people reach decisions about issues affecting their economic and health status in old age and to inform how interventions can educate or help people align decisions with their long-term objectives. This center is funded in part by the Social Security Administration.
  • University of Southern California, Roybal Center for Health Policy Simulation. Dana P. Goldman, Ph.D. — The goal of this center is to develop better models to understand the consequences of biomedical developments and social forces for health, health spending and health care delivery.
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Northwest Roybal Center. Linda Teri, Ph.D. — This center seeks to improve the health and well-being of older adults with cognitive impairment and their caregivers.
  • Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, Center for Study of Networks and Well-Being. Nicholas Christakis, M.D., Ph.D. — This center focuses on the social network underpinnings of selected health problems affecting older people in the United States today, such as obesity and cancer.

About the National Institute on Aging (NIA: The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. For more information on research and aging, go to

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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