MUSC Center on Aging – Part 2
Guest: Lotta Granholm-Bentley – Director, Center on Aging
Host: Sally Smith – Author/Resource literature on age-related disease and healthy aging
Sally Smith: Welcome to Age to Age. I’m Sally Smith. Let’s talk. Lotta Granholm- Bentley, Director of the Center on Aging, is with us again to talk a little bit about the Center on Aging. She’s just given us a lovely overview of it, but it’s such a pithy topic, we wanted to ask her a few more questions. The Center on Aging, going forward, we talked a lot about your goals and improving lives and the quality of life of citizens in South Carolina, and their longevity as well. You’re part of several specialties. It’s seven-pronged, I think you said. It goes into different departments at the hospital. How does that coordination take place, and how important is it for you to be able to meet together, sort of, under one roof?
Lotta Granholm-Bentely: There are some diseases that are increasing enormously with aging, obviously, Parkinson’s disease, incidents of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease. And the interesting thing is that many of the disease processes are the same. So, our thought is that we have to be under one roof and be together, and be able to discuss to move this field forward. There’s an exciting opportunity, actually, for us to all be housed under the same roof, in the Harbor View Towers.
So, we’re moving all these programs together. And it, actually, will have outpatient facilities, on the first floor. Then, a few floors up, we’ll have all of these programs, the Movement Disorders Program, Alzheimer’s Program, Stroke Program, and the Center on Aging. So, we can actually meet daily. I think it’s not only having a seminar series or Annual Research Day, but it’s actually being able to see each other in the hallway, have a cup of coffee, and talk about a research project. That’s how good collaborations happen.
Sally Smith: Very important. The synergy of being there, it makes such a difference. I’ve seen it in many other capacities in my life. You think you can get it all done and then just get together. But there’s something about, you know, being in the same place and walking by and saying, oh, by the way… In fact, you and I had a little moment when we were talking the other day, when I found out about a fantastic thing that I wouldn’t have known about if we didn’t just happen to be together. It relates to what you said about some diseases affecting other diseases, like Alzheimer’s researchers are now finding that some of the same issues are connected to macular degeneration.
Lotta Granholm-Bentely: Yeah. It’s enormously exciting. Researches in the Ophthalmology department are now working with the Neurology department. And, actually, Basic Science and Clinical Science are also meeting, so it’s translational in many aspects. And what they have found is that some of the proteins that are accumulating in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease are also accumulating in the retina with macular degeneration. So, I think MUSC is at the front of the field, actually being able to discover an entirely new connection between these very common age-related disorders.
Sally Smith: Wow. Some of that is just so fascinating. It’s so interconnected. As my husband says, it’s the practice of medicine. We’re still learning so much. Well, let me ask another question. Under your new roof, you will have all these different components which will be the neurological, sort of, components, and then you’ll still be connected to other people, and that’s one of the major issues. But you also leave that building and go out into the community. And I love it that you’re trying to educate the young. What’s an example of something you do with educating the young?
Lotta Granholm-Bentely: Okay. We have something ever year, Brain Awareness Week, and I’m engaging more and more people in this, post doctoral students, graduate students. The graduate students in our department are doing it. We go out to area schools. We have found that in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, the students are the most impressionable. They actually know a little bit about the brain. So, we take human brains and, actually, mouse brains and rat brains and show them the differences. Then we go out and actually let them hold a brain. We talk about healthy aging. We talk about habits, and exercise.
And I actually bring a brain from an Alzheimer’s patient. It’s very lightweight. It, actually, has withered away. I let them hold the brain. Then I let them hold the brain of a normal person of the same age. And then I tell them, this is your brain on blueberries, this is your brain on French fries, and their eyes pop wide open. And their mothers actually stop me in the parking lot and say, you’ve destroyed everything, I can’t serve anything now that I used to serve. And I say, good, good.
Sally Smith: Good, good. You’re child may live longer and pass on the good message. Are there ways that people can be involved in the Center on Aging, and could you tell us how to contact the Center on Aging?
Lotta Granholm-Bentley: Absolutely. There are many ways. We’re always looking for volunteers for our Senior Mentor Program. This is a program where you would have your very own medical students that you’d be able to meet with. You would meet a few times a year and actually develop a wonderful relationship. The number you can call is (843) 792-0712, or you can go on the website: www.musc.edu/aging. We also have our own fundraiser, Debbie Bordeau, who you can find on the same website. She’s always raising money and raising awareness about age-related diseases. You can contact her too.
Sally Smith: That’s wonderful. That’s so interesting. Awareness is certainly where we need to be headed. I’m glad to know that it’s starting at an early age. You’re planting the idea of the brain on blueberries, and the brain on trans fats. Thank you so much, Lotta, for being with us today. You’re a wealth of knowledge, I will say. And thanks to all of our listeners for joining us. We welcome your suggestions. This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying goodbye and wishing you courage and joy on your journey. We are all connected.
If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle. It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia. Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the Health Professionals tab on the Podcast home page. All profits support research at the Center on Aging. Thanks.