Center for Excellence in Aging Pilot Grants
The goal of the pilot grants are to support members across cores of the Center and disciplines in collaborating to collect pilot data for projects that advance the mission of the Center and are likely to lead to an extramural grant to Rush from a foundation, State, or Federal government agency (e.g., National Institutes of Health [NIH], Health Resources & Services Administration [HRSA]).
Physical function promotion in midlife and beyond
Brittney Lange-Maia, PhD, MPH, Elizabeth Lynch, PhD, Grisel Rodriguez-Morales, LCSW, Sheila Dugan, MD
Physical function has been long studied in older adults, and the prevalence of functional impairments is rising among midlife adults. The need for community-based programs focused on physical function is high, especially in underserved communities. In this project we expanded a church-based health screening program focused in West Side communities to include a measure of physical function. We also conducted focus groups to assess perceptions of functional limitations and to gain insight into strategies for developing a new program aimed at improving physical function delivered through churches. In total, 804 individuals age 40+ were screened. Approximately 1/3 of participants had evidence of limitations as assessed by the Short Physical Performance Battery (scores of ≤9 of a possible 12 points), with the prevalence rising sharply with age (19% in those age 40-49; 72% in those age 70-79). In focus groups (N=41 participants reporting difficulty with mobility), a major theme was that physical function limitations keep participants from living a full life and being active in their community, church, and family. Participants had a strong desire to learn how to move better—like learning about how to climb stairs when experiencing pain and ways to reduce fall risk—and were interested in programs focused on improving physical function through their church. This study indicated that functional limitations are common and that interventions for improving function are needed, but also helped to elucidate specific elements to include in a new intervention that would appeal to the community members. We used feedback gained through the focus groups, insights from the quantitative study, and existing scientific evidence, to develop a novel program aimed at improving physical function that will be appropriate for delivery in churches. Since the completion of this pilot, we have secured further funds to test this proposed intervention in the community.