New Study Will Investigate Ways to Prevent Mobility Disability in Seniors

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC), together with Wake Forest University, will play a key role in a new study that seeks to determine whether a program of structured physical activity can prevent or delay major mobility disabilities in older adults.

The 6-year study, called Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE, will be the largest study to date that looks at ways to prevent mobility disability in seniors. When completed, funding for the project is expected to total more than $60 million from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), including $29.5 million in federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“This study represents an important milestone in aging research,” Stephen B. Kritchevsky, PhD, director of J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging at WFUBMC, said in a press release. “In many ways the LIFE study is the capstone of 20 years of our program’s exercise-related research.”

For older adults, staving off disability could help them maintain their physical independence and enhance the quality of their later years.

“Older adults value their independence as much as any aspect of their lives and mobility is absolutely central to the preservation of independence,” Tony Marsh, PhD, associate professor, health and exercise sciences at Wake Forest University said. “This study is important because it will determine whether the loss of mobility, we typically observe in older adults, can be prevented.”

Investigators will also examine the effects of physical activity on a number of factors, including cognitive function, serious fall injuries, disability in basic activities of daily living, cardiovascular events, hospitalization and nursing home admission. They will also examine quality-of-life measures such as depression symptoms, sleep quality, stress and satisfaction with life.

In addition, the project will assess the cost effectiveness of walking programs for the elderly and whether the money spent on such programs can help reduce medical expenses for injuries and illness that might otherwise result from lack of adequate physical activity.

The randomized controlled trial will follow 1,600 sedentary adults ages 70 to 89 and at risk of mobility disability at eight institutions around the country.

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