By funding research in ‘Rehabilitation for the Elderly’, VELUX FONDEN aims to improve quality of life for senior citizens in Denmark.

Since 2015, user involvement has been focal for VELUX FONDEN’s grants to ensure that infirm elderly people and their relatives bring valued insights to clinical research.

It is rarely a good idea to generalise about a given group in the population, and senior citizens are just as different individually as any other age-group in Denmark. They know best which problems pose challenges in daily living. Are they healthy, active and able-bodied, or physically impaired or perhaps wheelchair users? Can family and relatives help, or is the elderly person dependent on round-the-clock professional care? How does this affect their quality of life, and what does a good life entail in later life?

Important insights to benefit many elderly people

“Research and practice-based evidence concerning rehabilitation and quality of life for elderly persons has been accorded special status among VELUX FONDEN's grants,” says Ane Hendriksen, Executive Director of VELUX FONDEN. VELUX FONDEN, in partnership with Professor Mogens Hørder, MD, of the University of Southern Denmark, established this as a research area in Denmark, and launched the first five PhDs and a professorship, together with an annual 'PhD school' with a programme on rehabilitation. Mogens Hørder explains:

In attaching importance to comorbid conditions in older adults, and to user involvement in research, VELUX FONDEN is pursuing a strategy that has the potential to make a significant difference to Danish research," says Mogens Hørder.

The focus had shifted to the whole person

“Rehabilitation was not a real action area until around the year 2000. Internationally, reference was now being made to 'the functioning, disability and health of people afflicted by disease'. The focus had shifted to the whole person and his or her ability to cope with everyday life both at home and at work.

With VELUX FONDEN's initial grant of DKK 10m for this research, we were really looking at a pioneering venture, and one that helped to kickstart Danish research in this area, which has since been greatly advanced, bringing it up to the best at European level,” says Mogens Hørder.

VELUX FONDEN as the first to fund Danish rehabilitation research

“Equally, at one stage it also became more common in the UK and the US to involve citizens and users in innovating healthcare practices. In Denmark, we saw this incorporated in national healthcare policy concerning 'patient-centered care'. In parallel with this, we saw patient involvement make it onto the agenda of health sciences research.” 
“And obviously, this made sense, because patients and relatives often have significant insights that would not necessarily come to researchers. Moreover, patients are very keen to be asked, and are often capable of determining where their insights and inputs might be of value to a research project,” says Mogens Hørder. 

Worldwide, research in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's is relatively underfunded. 

Intensified research drive needed

For the last three years, VELUX FONDEN has prioritised grants for research in rehabilitation devoted to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, incorporating the involvement of patients and relatives. 

“Rehabilitation of people with dementia is a relatively novel field of research, which means that existing research or guidelines in this area are somewhat limited. Accordingly, we wish to prioritise projects capable of advancing the research component of a collaboration between general practitioners, local authorities and hospitals,” says Ane Hendriksen.

Professor Mogens Hørder has this to say on the new focus: “The so-called neurodegenerative diseases have received increasing attention over the last decade among many individuals and in society at large, where awareness of these conditions is heightened compared to in the past. But worldwide, research in neurodegenerative diseases is relatively underfunded compared to cancer and heart disease research for example. So, increased research investment is greatly needed! 

These are incurable and disabling diseases that change the circumstances of each individual afflicted; and that also require treatment and represent a burden for relatives and society, which has to train staff and coordinate special modes of care.

In that VELUX FONDEN is concentrating on research in the early stage of the diseases, there is the potential to make discoveries that can delay their onset. This is essential, because we have no viable medical treatment options for curing these diseases.”

Patients and relatives must be involved

“Support for some of the best research centres is a way of advancing the science that will ultimately benefit local authorities and the health sector generally to a very great extent. Crucially, patients and relatives MUST be involved in that process.

At the same time, VELUX FONDEN's funding commitment gains a distinct profile. In that it attaches importance to comorbid conditions in older adults and to user involvement in studies, this is a strategy that can make a significant difference to Danish research,” says Mogens Hørder. 

Seven projects already well underway

In the period 2015-2017, VELUX FONDEN has funded rehabilitation and user involvement, granting a total of DKK 14.8m to seven projects. This funding allocation will also be advertised in 2018 with a grant budget of DKK 6m.


Contact us
Frank Ulmer Jørgensen
Senior Adviser, Head of Programme, VELUX FONDEN
+ 45 29 41 81 35