Healthy aging is a hot topic for the nearly 80 million baby boomers in the United States. Participation in regular physical activity is important not only for healthy aging, but also for the maintenance of mobility in older adults. Gallagher’s research uses social cognitive theory to examine the influence of psychosocial factors and the physical environment of urban neighborhoods on physical activity and walking for older adults. Her research aims to better understand how self-efficacy, mobility-related disabilities, and physical characteristics of a neighborhood may influence each other as well as the physical activity of older adults.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of irreversible dementia. While memory loss is a predominant feature of the disease, over half of the people affected by it also experience troubling behavioral symptoms such as agitation, depression, delusions, hallucinations, and apathy. Research is needed to examine the relationship between hereditary and environmental factors that may contribute to behavioral symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s. Schutte is working to better understand the relationship between environmental and hereditary factors that may lead to health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease. The long-term goal of the project is to learn how hereditary and environmental factors influence health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and to translate that new knowledge into health innovations and interventions.
Adults with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, experience a three-fold increased risk of falling compared to non-demented adults. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death as well as the most common cause of nonfatal injuries among older adults. Tai Chi, a Chinese form of physical exercise characterized by a series of slow and smooth body movements, is one of the fall prevention exercises recommended by the American Geriatrics Society. Yao is studying the effects of caregiver-assisted tai-chi in older adults with Alzheimer’s disease. The long-term goal of her research is to reduce the incidence of falls and improve exercise participation, mobility, mood, and health-related quality of life for both the Alzheimer’s patient and their caregiver.
Sandra Spoelstra, PhD, RN Falls at home represent a significant risk of hospitalization, decreased functional status, and increased healthcare costs for community-dwelling older adults. Spoelstra’s research aims to understand how cancer treatment alters physical function and falls. Her research seeks to identify interventions clinicians can use to promote a level of physical function that helps prevent falls and fractures in community dwelling cancer patients aged 65+. The long term goal of her research is to enhance awareness among healthcare providers and encourage them to increase fall prevention measures—leading to increased safety for older cancer patients receiving care at home, as well as lower the rate nursing home transfers and thus reduce the amount of time the elderly spend in nursing homes.