BLOG – SF IAGG conference

The IAGG world congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics July 23-27 in San Francisco was attended by more than 6000 delegates and included 700 symposia. In this rich offer of fresh knowledge choices had to be made.

Focusing on social health related research, it appeared that social network research is still dominated by easy to measure variables such as network size. Toni Antonucci made a strong plea for going beyond easy to measure variables and to study social factors potentially influencing health, such as forgiveness.

Social networks and mental health have a reciprocal relationship, but the effect of mental health seems to be stronger and mediated by education. There is a growing attention for the complexity of social relationships including disentangling positive and negative effects of social interactions.

A major driver of negative social interactions and social exclusion is stigma. The symposium on stigma has been chosen as presidential symposium.  In this symposium Murna Downs and Myrra Vernooij-Dassen presented interventions contradicting the stigma of social incapability. The theme of social inclusion was addressed by Hilde Verbeek. She found that people with dementia living in Green Care Farms had more positive social interactions than those in traditional nursing homes (see blog Verbeek). The international perspective on care improvement has been presented by Chris Fox and René Thyrian.

There were too many INTERDEM contributions to summarise. Of course networking was also an important part of the conference. Chris Fox made the connection between INTERDEM and American colleagues including Mary Austrom and Mary Mittelman by organizing a great networking dinner.

The title of the congress was: Global Aging and Health: bridging science, policy and practice. Within dementia sciences bridges are urgently required. However, the two big conferences in the same month, one focusing on biomedical sciences (see blog Meiland) and the other on gerontology and geriatrics, represented little effort on how the two meet. Translational research related to biomedical and psychosocial research was underrepresented in San Francisco and within translational studies there was scant attention for social factors. With growing knowledge in the specific areas of dementia research, integration of all dementia knowledge should be a next step.

Myrra Vernooij-Dassen