Dr. Christian Davis Furman.
Dr. Christian Davis Furman.

On June 10, ElderServe will present the 2016 Champion for the Aging Award to Dr. Christian Davis Furman, medical director of the University of Louisville’s Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging, professor of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine and a geriatrician with UofL Physicians-Geriatrics. The Champion of Aging Award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding commitment to improving the lives of older adults. UofL News had the chance to talk to Dr. Furman on what it means to “age optimally” and what people need to know as their loved ones and they themselves grow older.

UofL News: What does it mean to ‘age optimally’? 

Dr. Christian Davis Furman: Aging optimally means that the person is staying active physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. The person may not be perfect in all these areas, but he or she makes the most of their condition. We want our older adults to flourish.

UofL News: What is the single biggest contributor to staying as healthy as possible as we age? 

Dr. Christian Davis Furman: The single best predictor of staying healthy as we age is to stay active – physically, mentally and socially.  As people age, they should develop routines of exercise, mental engagement and social engagement, such as doing activities with friends, joining book clubs, playing cards and the like. The main thing is to stay active. 

UofL News: How should adult children address the needs of their parents and other loved ones as they age?

Dr. Christian Davis Furman: As parents age, adult children should encourage them to visit their health care provider on a regular basis to monitor their health and catch any problems as early as possible. They should also encourage the older adult to complete Advance Directive, Living Will and Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment, or MOST, forms.  Most people know what Advance Directives and Living Wills are; the MOST form is a newer directive that expresses the wishes of a patient who has a life-limiting condition.

UofL News: What is palliative medicine and why is it important in the aging continuum? 

Dr. Christian Davis Furman: Palliative medicine is a specialty in medicine that addresses pain and symptom management and ensures a patient’s wishes are honored when they have a life-limiting condition. Is it important to have access to palliative medicine to ensure patients don’t suffer at the end-of-life. The Palliative Care approach is interdisciplinary, so physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and others work together to ensure the patient and the family have the care they need.

UofL News: What inspired you to go into the specialty of geriatrics? 

Dr. Christian Davis Furman: My love of my grandparents and older adults inspired me to go into geriatrics. My grandparents treated me as an equal when I was young and had the patience to teach me to play a card game called Rook. I loved playing Rook with my grandparents and their friends. In medical school, I realized I was unique in my love of older adults and was excited to learn that the specialty of Geriatric Medicine existed! I became interested in Palliative Medicine when I was a Geriatric Medicine Fellow. I liked the ethical issues and patient care issues at the end-of-life. Caring for patients as they age and go through the dying process is both an honor and a life-affirming activity.

In January, Furman also was named the Smock Endowed Chair for Geriatric Medicine, supported by the Margaret Dorward Smock Charitable Trust, established in 1981 to support geriatric medicine faculty members to study and teach geriatric medicine to students at the UofL School of Medicine