- Press Release Distribution

Optimising outcomes for older adults

Optimising outcomes for older adults
( By Alistair Jones

SMU Office of Research – The contribution of team members on a research project can get taken for granted, with storied senior leaders gaining most of the attention.

A recent exception is Micah Tan, an associate researcher at the Centre for Research on Successful Ageing (ROSA) at Singapore Management University (SMU). For his collaborative work at ROSA, Tan was recognised with an inaugural 2022 Research Staff Excellence Award.

“Winning the award has given me a strong sense of fulfilment and has inspired me to want to do more, both for the SMU community but also more generally in terms of contributing to the health and wellbeing of older adults,” Tan says.

Tan was drawn to a research career through his interest in people.

“From a young age I loved to interact with people and to learn more about different cultures, and I found that conducting social science research was an ideal way for me to put this interest to good use,” he says.

Tan's work has concentrated on older adults, which could seem surprising for a comparatively young academic.

“Much of my motivation for wanting to conduct research related to older adults comes from my own personal experiences,” he says. “Growing up, I watched my own parents go through the transition from working full-time to retirement and it made me think about what that transition meant and what life should be like in retirement.

“Also, Singapore is facing a rapidly ageing population and it is becoming increasingly important for us to address social issues emerging from this demographic trend.”

Consistent messaging

A paper co-authored by Tan, which caught the eye of the Awards panel, was written during the early days of the COVID pandemic and identified that a key attitudinal barrier leading to vaccine hesitancy among older residents was trust, or lack of it, in the government's messaging.

“One thing to clarify is that our research found that a large majority of Singaporeans did still have high trust in the government throughout the pandemic. However, for the few that did not, I think one key factor that may have led to this was the rise in alternate narratives in the media,” Tan says.

“[Government] messaging can at times be drowned out by the immense flood of other perspectives and narratives one can easily find on social media and on the internet. When you are faced with so many different narratives and you don’t have a strong level of trust existing in more reliable sources, you can easily get lost.

“One key factor that has been identified by researchers to shape the levels of trust that people hold is consistency in messaging.”

Holistic measures

ROSA's title begs the question of how to define 'ageing successfully'.

“I think an important dimension of ageing successfully involves remaining well-integrated within your community even in later life,” Tan says. “This doesn’t just consist of keeping in touch with friends and family, but should also consist of being able to contribute meaningfully to your community in some way.

“I think that we all want to feel we are part of something larger than ourselves [and] we want to feel valued by our communities. If we can help more older adults find meaningful ways to participate in their communities, I think we will go a long way in helping more people age successfully.”

In a ROSA brief co-authored by Tan, wellbeing among older adults features as a desirable outcome. How can such a broad, even amorphous term as wellbeing be quantified as a research topic?

“This is a great question but is one that unfortunately does not have a good answer (yet),” Tan says. “ROSA’s primary aim is to develop a holistic measure of wellbeing for older adults that can be operationalised and used in Singapore as, currently, no such measure exists.

“At ROSA, we pay attention to four primary dimensions of wellbeing – economic, psychological, social and mental – and we are striving to create a holistic measure of wellbeing that can span all four dimensions.”

The same brief highlights economic expectations as an indicator of older adult wellbeing during a financially challenging period.

“Research has found that people are often aware of their own financial situations and are more able to estimate how much they will be affected by a particular financial challenge, relative to crude estimates at the population level.

“Being negatively affected by a financial challenge will certainly have negative impacts on other aspects of wellbeing, such as experiencing poorer mental health due to the stress of not having enough.”

Health outcomes

Rising cost of living pressures is a worldwide issue. The latest in a series of ROSA briefs focuses on its impact on older Singaporeans.

“We have found that healthcare is a key concern for older adults, and for good reason. We interviewed our respondents to try to get an idea of why this was so, and many of our respondents saw a negative health shock as one of the few life events that could potentially wipe out all of their savings for retirement,” Tan says.

“This is due to the immense costs that could be incurred if one were to be diagnosed with, for instance, cancer. Costs for treating such a condition can be extreme even with health insurance, and could financially cripple someone even if they had tried their best to prepare for such a scenario.

“For this reason, many older adults that we have spoken to have mentioned how they are most afraid of such an event happening, and often cite healthcare as a key financial concern.” 

In its summary, the brief recommends targeted support for those experiencing more severe financial difficulties, such as older adults with low socioeconomic status, as well as those who are unemployed, laid off, or on sick leave. Financial support needs to focus on providing for necessities – utilities, groceries and healthcare needs – as respondents were most concerned about the affordability of such items. And the government needs effective communication of its mitigation measures.

Tan proposes that his next project will also be concerned with health issues.

“I’m becoming more interested in researching life course factors that shape health outcomes among older adults. Specifically, looking at how conditions in early life can shape health in later life,” he says.

“Studies have shown that exposure to stressful environments in early life can have lasting and permanent effects on your physiology that make you more vulnerable to certain health conditions in later life.”


[Attachments] See images for this press release:
Optimising outcomes for older adults


Harnessing large vision-language models

Harnessing large vision-language models
By Alistair Jones SMU Office of Research – The terminology of artificial intelligence (AI) and its many acronyms can be confusing for a lay person, particularly as AI develops in sophistication. Among the developments is deep learning – a machine learning technique that teaches computers to learn by example. “Deep learning has brought many major changes to AI, especially in natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision, two sub areas of AI,” says Jing Jiang, a Professor of Computer Science at Singapore Management University (SMU). “In my field, which is NLP, the solution ...

State policies can boost use of anti-opioid medication

States that want to increase access to buprenorphine, a lifesaving medication used to treat opioid use disorder, should consider efforts to enhance professional education and clinician knowledge, according to a new RAND Corporation study.   Examining six state-level policies aimed at boosting use of buprenorphine, researchers found that requiring buprenorphine prescribers to receive additional education beyond the initially required instruction, as well as continuing medical education related to substance misuse, were both associated with a significant increase in use of the treatment.   The findings are published in the latest edition of the journal JAMA Health Forum.   “Many ...

Association of healthy lifestyle factors and obesity-related diseases in adults in the UK

About The Study: In this study of 438,000 UK Biobank participants, adherence to a healthy lifestyle was associated with reduced risk of a wide range of obesity-related diseases, but this association was modest in adults with obesity. The findings suggest that although a healthy lifestyle seems to be beneficial, it does not entirely offset the health risks associated with obesity.  Authors: Sebastien Czernichow, M.D., Ph.D., of the Hopital Europeen Georges Pompidou in Paris, is the corresponding author.  To access the embargoed study: Visit our For The Media website at this link (doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.14741) Editor’s ...

Effect of free medicine distribution on health care costs in Canada

About The Study: In this secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial of primary care patients in Ontario, Canada, eliminating out-of-pocket medication expenses for patients with cost-related nonadherence in primary care was associated with lower health care spending over three years. These findings suggest that eliminating out-of-pocket medication costs for patients could reduce overall costs of health care.  Authors: Nav Persaud, M.D., of the University of Toronto, is the corresponding author. To access ...

Kentucky, Michigan scientific researchers awarded $2 million to study new heart disease, stroke treatments

DALLAS, May 26, 2023 — A Lexington, Ky., research scientist studying ways to repair damaged major vessels with medication rather than surgery and a physician-scientist from Ann Arbor, Mich., exploring the mechanisms of how exercise can heal heart muscle and brain tissue following a heart attack or stroke are the most recent American Heart Association Merit Award recipients. Each researcher will receive $1 million in funding from the Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health and research. Alan Daugherty, Ph.D., D.Sc., FAHA, the associate vice president for research, ...

Scepticism about Microsoft results

Scepticism about Microsoft results
In March 2022, Microsoft published research results about the realisation of a special type of particle that might be used to make particularly robust quantum bits. Researchers at the University of Basel are now calling these results about so-called Majorana particles into doubt: through calculations they have shown that the findings can also be explained differently. In 1938 a genius suddenly vanished without a trace: after buying a ferry ticket from Palermo to Naples, the young Italian physicist Ettore Majorana seemingly ...

Yeast screen uncovers genes involved in chromosomal mutation

Yeast screen uncovers genes involved in chromosomal mutation
Osaka, Japan – When creating a computer program, errors in the code can introduce bugs to the software. Similarly, errors in our body’s genetic code, DNA, which is stored in structures known as chromosomes, can bring about mutations in the body. These mutations are the cause of many deadly diseases – including cancer. Now, researchers in Japan have shed new light on a particular type of genetic mutation: gross chromosomal rearrangement (GCR). In a new study published in Communications Biology, a multi-institutional team led by researchers from Osaka University analyzed fission yeast to identify two key genes involved in the process of GCR. The researchers ...

Forging a dream material with semiconductor quantum dots

Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science and collaborators have succeeded in creating a “superlattice” of semiconductor quantum dots that can behave like a metal, potentially imparting exciting new properties to this popular class of materials. Semiconducting colloidal quantum dots have garnered tremendous research interest due to their special optical properties, which arise from the quantum confinement effect. They are used in solar cells, where they can improve the efficiency of energy conversion, biological imaging, where they can be used as fluorescent probes, electronic displays, and even quantum computing, where their ability to ...

Capturing non-transparent ultrafast scenes

Capturing non-transparent ultrafast scenes
A research team at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) led by Professor Roberto Morandotti reported the first realization of a single-shot ultrafast terahertz (THz) photography system. This important achievement published in Nature Communications will be able to provide both the spatial and temporal evolution of ultrashort dynamics with sub-picosecond resolution. In other terms, researchers will be now able to uncover the hidden laws of nature that govern the dynamics, which require imaging ...

Termite mounds reveal secret to creating ‘living and breathing’ buildings that use less energy

Termite mounds reveal secret to creating ‘living and breathing’ buildings that use less energy
Among the approximately 2,000 known species of termites, some are ecosystem engineers. The mounds built by some genera, for example Amitermes, Macrotermes, Nasutitermes, and Odontotermes, reach up to eight meters high, making them some of the world’s largest biological structures. Natural selection has been at work improving the ‘design’ of their mounds over tens of millions of years. What might human architects and engineers learn if they go to the termites and consider their ways? In a new study in Frontiers in Materials, researchers showed how termite mounds can teach us to create comfortable interior climates for our buildings that don’t ...


Many older adults receiving home care do not receive palliative care before death

Reforestation schemes are not enough to recover the carbon created by harvesting wood, research suggests

Antidepressant dispensing to adolescents and young adults surges during pandemic

Healthcare leaders plea to reinstate the Canadian hypertension control program to prevent death and disability

Drug limits dangerous reactions to allergy-triggering foods, Stanford Medicine-led study of kids finds

Measuring the properties of light: Scientists realise new method for determining quantum states

For faster access to gene and cell therapies in Europe

Scientists deliver portable total chemical analysis without pumps and tubes

A very long, winding road: Developing novel therapeutics for metastatic tumors

Unlocking health: How In Our DNA SC is pioneering genetic screening for South Carolinians

Down Under Demo: ONR touts additive manufacturing tech at Australian event

Study shows benralizumab is effective as a treatment for eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, a rare form of vasculitis

Researchers identify new choice of therapy for rare autoimmune disease EGPA

Powering nitrogenases

NJIT marketing experts measure brain waves and skin current to predict emotions

Babies use immune system differently, but efficiently

Cloud clustering causes more extreme rain

Mindfulness at work protects against stress and burnout

Scientists closer to solving mysteries of universe after measuring gravity in quantum world

Revolutionary brain stimulation technique shows promise for treating brain disorders

Global warming increases the diversity of active soil bacteria

Patient mindset training helps care teams

Dual-energy harvesting device could power future wireless medical implants

Study: ‘Hexaplex’ vaccine aims to boost flu protection

New structural insights could lead to mechanical enhancement in alloys

New research challenges conventional picture of Parkinson's disease

Dairy cows fed botanicals-supplemented diets use energy more efficiently

Aston University receives nearly half a million pounds to create safer and greener batteries

New study shows glycan sugar coating of IgG immunoglobulin can predict cardiovascular health

Sir Peter Rigby appointed as honorary chair of Aston University’s new Digital Futures Institute

[] Optimising outcomes for older adults