Researchers seek sage advice of elders on aging issues

Rachel O'Conor booted up her slides and began posing questions to six older adults sitting around a table: How should primary care physicians support patients and caregivers after a diagnosis of dementia? And what stands in the way of getting adequate support? "Please speak louder and go slower," suggested Susanne Smith, a 75-year-old with early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Smith belongs to the Bureau of Sages, a group of vulnerable seniors who advise researchers about what matters to older adults, how to involve them in research about aging and how to communicate with them effectively while doing so. It's a groundbreaking program: Traditionally, ill, disabled and cognitively challenged older adults have been excluded from research and assumed to be too compromised to offer useful insights.

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