As the baby-boomer generation heads into its senior years, the mental health community is beginning to focus more on the details of treating mental disorders in the geriatric setting. Last month, a significant step was taken by leading geriatric psychiatrists with the formation of the International College of Geriatric Psychopharmacology (ICGP).
"We have reached a critical time in history in terms of the rapidly growing numbers of aging, mentally ill people," Jeste said, "along with the ability to capitalize on exciting new research in genetics, pharmacology, biotechnology, and psychosocial treatments for older individuals."
ICGP, Jeste said, will help scientists worldwide share knowledge among different but related disciplines. Clinical researchers in geriatric psychiatry, neurology, medicine, and psychology will work with basic scientists to develop better understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders in elderly people.
Membership in the new college will include individuals who have shown investigative skill, as reflected in peer-reviewed publications, and who have made worthy contributions to the field of geriatric mental health, especially those relevant to treatment issues. Applications will be reviewed by the college’s credentials committee.
In addition to regular members, an associate member category has been established for researchers and clinicians who may not have reached a career level eligible for full membership. Associate membership carries a five-year term, and those in the category may be advanced to full membership upon demonstrating fulfillment of the requirements.
"We are working to define methods for the study, prevention, and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders and to make research-based recommendations for policies around the world that will improve the health and well-being of aging individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders," Jeste said.
Jeste, who is chief of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) division of geriatric psychiatry and director of the Specialized Mental Health Intervention Research Center on Late-Life Psychosis at UCSD, was recently appointed to the Estelle and Edgar Levi Memorial Chair of Aging. His research and practice are concentrated on the treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in old age.
Jeste established the geriatric psychiatry program at UCSD 15 years ago to treat elderly patients, conduct research, and train medical students and residents about issues in geriatric psychiatry.
Of his Levi appointment, Jeste told Psychiatric News that he is "delighted by the honor." Jeste said that he is particularly excited that the endowed chair is in aging but is not limited to geriatric psychiatry. "The appointment thus supports the growing recognition of geriatric psychiatry within the broader fields of geriatrics and gerontology," he said.
Jeste said that the next several decades are going to present unprecedented challenges as the aging of baby boomers will lead to dramatic increases in the number of elderly people with severe mental illnesses.
"With thoughtful planning and preparation in terms of training and research, we can convert these challenges into opportunities for improving quality of life in old age," he observed.
Last summer Jeste became editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, which is published by American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.
More information about ICGP is posted on the Web at www.icgp.org. The AJGP may be found online at www.psychiatryonline.org. ▪