LIFE: Preventing Disability Through Exercise and Social Engagement

Abby King

Abby King

The aging of the baby boomer generation sets the stage for a potentially unprecedented number of americans facing risks of functional impairment and disability associated with aging. National disability trends over the past decade among adults ages 65 and older have been sobering. After several decades of declines, disability rates have increased during the first 5 years of this century.

For some time exercise and social interaction have offered hope in helping elders maintain normal function, but now researchers are considering whether they may also help stave off disability.

Center on Longevity faculty affiliate Dr. Abby King and her team at the Stanford Prevention Research Center have begun a study intended to investigate just this question. They are a part of the Lifestyle Intervention and Independence for Elders life study, a large multisite trial that compares the effects of introducing a moderate-intensity physical activity program to a successful aging health education program. In sedentary older persons who are at risk of disability, Dr. King describes the importance of the study as creating the data necessary to advise the public on the best path to avoiding disability. “It is imperative that we continue to identify strategies for improving or maintaining functional health as people age.”

Two major paths for doing so are regular physical activity and social engagement. While evidence is available indicating that both of these strategies can improve or maintain function in older adults, no experimental evidence currently exists demonstrating that a program of regular physical activity or regular social engagement actually can prevent disability and the loss of independence that typically accompanies it. In this effort, stanford is joining forces with 7 other US-based universities to create a study large enough to produce definitive results from which public health policy and clinical practice recommendations for doctors can be formed.

To learn more about the life study visit http://www.thelifestudyorg if you are between 70 and 89 years old and interested in potentially participating in the life study at stanford please visit:

http://healthyaging.stanford.edu/life.html