Mikaela von Bonsdorff appointed group leader at FHRC - Folkhälsan

25 March 2022

Mikaela von Bonsdorff appointed group leader at FHRC

Associate professor Mikaela von Bonsdorff takes the lead of our research group studying social gerontology. Her research group explores active and healthy ageing. The main themes are to study social determinants of active and healthy ageing in different living environments including senior housing. Agency, participation and sense of community as well as coping and adaptation to adversity in the ageing population are also at the core of the research.

Mikaela von Bonsdorff completed her PhD in Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä in 2009. Where she wrote her dissertation on “physical activity as a predictor of disability and related service use in older people”, under the supervision of Professor Taina Rantanen. Von Bonsdorff received the title of Docent in Gerontology in 2014 by Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki. Following two post-doctoral visits, the first, 2011-12, at the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometrics, in Bethesda, and the second, 2012-15, at the Medical Research Council Unit of Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, in London, von Bonsdorff has worked at the FHRC as a Senior Researcher in the group studying social gerontology.

– My time at the FHRC begun as a collaboration with Professor Johan Eriksson around data from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. I heard about his group for the first time in 2010 and immediately became interested. We did not have that kind of extensive data at the time in gerontology, so we started collaborating and it has turned out to be a win-win journey for both of us, says von Bonsdorff.

von Bonsdorffs research potentially allows for early identification and targeted preventive measures to enhance long term quality of life.

The social gerontology research project was launched in 2017 to study the social aspects of active and healthy ageing and continued as a separate research group led by von Bonsdorff from 2022 onwards. A central part of her research circles around the BoAktiv Study, a project on senior housing as a determinant of healthy and active ageing, which includes around 250 persons living at Folkhälsan senior housing apartments. The study has a quantitative part, including a follow-up survey on health, functioning and social participation among the seniors, and a qualitative part, which explores the quality of life and the elements of social well-being through in-depth interviews.

– One of the key points is to compare seniors who live at home with people who live in senior housing. Various life adversities have a connection with the ability to function, which we explore from the mental, physical and social perspective, says von Bonsdorff.

– Frailty is one of the interesting concepts in our research. It’s a fairly common geriatric syndrome which is characterized by age-associated decline in function across many physiological systems, leading to increased vulnerability for adverse health outcomes. Together, these factors have quite an impact on how independently one is able to live and take care of daily tasks and how one’s quality of life might be as a senior, von Bonsdorff explains.

Since several factors connected to frailty may be identified early in life, von Bonsdorffs research potentially allows for early identification and targeted preventive measures to enhance long term quality of life.

Read more about von Bonsdorffs research here

Simon Granroth, Science Communicator