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New Study Aims to Keep Seniors Independent

The Yale School of Medicine is one of eight centers across the country taking part in a landmark study aimed at keeping seniors healthy and independent as they age. The study is looking at specific lifestyle changes, including exercise and learning, and measuring the impact they have on improving the physical and cognitive abilities of seniors.

According to Dr. Thomas Gill, a geriatrician at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the study’s principal investigator at Yale, “The study will help us learn more about what approaches work best to keep people healthy and independent in their golden years,” Gill said.

The LIFE (Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders) Study at Yale is currently recruiting participants aged 70-89 who don’t regularly exercise and are beginning to experience difficulty with daily activities, such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of a chair or car, or carrying bags of groceries.

Currently, 75 individuals in Connecticut participate in the study, but researchers are hoping to reach 200.

The study, which is funded by the National Institute for Health and the National Institute on Aging, will evaluate two separate groups over a 3-4 year period.

The first group will participate in the Successful Aging Program (currently located at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven), meeting once a week to take part in workshops, field trips and lectures on a variety of topics important to seniors, such as healthcare, nutrition, stress reduction, home safety, computer literacy, art and culture, and long-term care planning, among others. Some topics are chosen by the participants themselves.

A second group will take part in a Physical Activity Program that meets twice a week for exercise, primarily walking, at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. This group will work with trained experts to target balance, flexibility and lower body strength.

“Both groups are likely to benefit,” said Gill. “The objective is to determine which approach is more beneficial, so that we can use the model in the future, possibly even making a case for Medicare to adopt a successful approach and recognize the cost savings in prevention.”

Once screened, eligible participants will be randomly placed into one of the two groups and evaluated every six months. Parking is free and transportation is provided if needed. Gill indicated that a second location for the two groups is currently being identified, possibly in Wallingford.

Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D., a research associate who is in charge of recruitment and retention counseling for the study, said, “Those who participate in this study are not only making an investment in themselves and their own well-being, but are helping future generations.”

If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the LIFE Study, call 203-785-7597 or toll-free 1-888-785-7597. You can also send an email.

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