Yale Participating in Study That Aims To Help Older Adults Live Independently

As the life expectancy of Americans increases, learning how to prevent or delay age-related physical disability has become a major health priority.

Yale is one of eight centers in the country that will study whether physical activity and other lifestyle changes can help older adults maintain their independence.

The Lifestyle Intervention and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study is funded by the National Institute on Aging. The study will include 1,600 adults who are 70-89 years old. It will especially target those who are having difficulty doing daily activities such as walking, getting out of a chair or climbing stairs.

“Other studies have looked at pieces of the disability puzzle, such as seeing whether increasing muscle strength affects the ability to walk further,” says Dr. Thomas Gill, professor of internal medicine (geriatrics), investigative medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale. “But we want to answer the larger question: Does a program of activity or change in lifestyle patterns prevent physical disability? Our goal is to find strategies that will help older persons remain independent longer so they can live in their own homes and participate in the day-to-day activities.”

Study participants will be randomly assigned to one of two health programs. One group will attend classes and demonstrations promoting successful aging that include topics like nutrition, communicating with health-care professionals and foot care. The other group will participate in moderate-intensity physical activity that includes aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility training. Participants will receive free health screenings every six months for the duration of the study.

“During the course of their lives, about half of all persons aged 70 years or older will become so severely disabled as to need a nursing home admission,” says Dr. Marco Pahor from the University of Florida- Gainesville, who will lead the overall study. “What we learn in LIFE has the promise of benefiting a very large segment of the older population.”

The eight centers are currently recruiting participants for the study that began in March. For more information, or to learn if you qualify, call 203-785-7597 or visit www.thelifestudy.org/enroll.

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