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CU Anschutz launches new program aimed at involving older adults in clinical trials

CU Anschutz offers a free, 7-week program for 60-plus adults to train them for paid opportunities to serve as research navigators with the medical campus.

AURORA, Colo. — Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus say there is a glaring gap in many clinical trials. Despite having higher rates of many diseases, older adults are often left out of studies that might help them.

To help change that, CU Anschutz Medical Campus is launching a new program called the (OAR) Older Adult Research Specialist Training Program.

Dr. Kathryn Nearing helped create the program and says there is a need for more participation from older adults in clinical trials to help create more research and awareness.

"Older adults are one population of the group that's under-represented in research." Nearing said. "What that means is the research we conduct may not be as beneficial or as useful for those populations."

CU Anschutz offers a free, 7-week program for 60-plus adults to train them for paid opportunities to serve as research navigators with the medical campus.

The navigators will then help researchers more effectively connect and communicate with an older community and encourage them to get involved in medical trials. Those medical trials could include everything from new medicine to medical devices, or something as simple as exercise.

"We know that it makes a difference when those involved in doing the research share similar backgrounds and experiences of those we are trying to reach, engage and research." Nearing said. "Older adults are sometimes not aware of how important their participation is in research."

Credit: KUSA
Bucky Dilts

One of their recent graduates from the program is former Denver Bronco punter Douglas Riggs Dilts. Broncos Country knows him best as Bucky Dilts, who helped lead the team to the Super Bowl in 1978 against the Dallas Cowboys. Dilts hopes his name recognition will help recruit more older adults.

"The majority of older adults typically live with one or two chronic conditions from 60 onward. So you need to know how to better manage that or what you can do to improve your situation," said Dilts. "It puts all kinds of great information in front of me to continue my longevity and really how to handle being an older aged adult in a much better healthier way."

Dilts played three seasons in the NFL before retiring and moving into a career in real estate and marketing. One reason he decided to join the OAR program was because of health issues that plagued his family in recent years including his own battle with prostate cancer 14 years ago. He believes there is a stigma when it comes to older adults aging into their later years of life. 

"I have completely changed my lifestyle. I'm reading books about ageism and how we are affected by how people perceive older people." Dilts said.

Credit: Bucky Dilts

Since joining the OAR program, Dilts has become a health navigator and lead spokesperson for CU Anschutz, trying to connect with people his age and encouraging them to better manage their health by joining clinical trials.

"I viewed all of this as a really good way to get to know people 60 plus and kind of get into where I am at in my stage of life," Dilts said. "I always wanted to be in my mind a person who gives people good information that they can use that benefits them and be an outreach."

Dilts says he hasn't picked up a football in years, but this program helped inspired him to get back in shape and spread the word to others.

"I have to take the last part of my life, whatever that is... and live it better. And that's the message," said Dilts

Click here to learn more information about how to join the University of Colorado Anschutz's Older Adult Research Program.


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