A research subject at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research stands on a measuring platform with a computer read-out reflected on the wall behind.

Physical Health and Function

Through the Marcus Institute’s research we are learning how older adults can maintain independence and quality of life.

Research About Maintaining Physical Function as We Age

Mobility is the most common disability among older Americans. More than 40 percent of older adults ages 65-79 have at least one disability in either self-care, household activity, or mobility. For those 80 years and older, this share rises to more than 70 percent. 

Moreover, 10 percent of older adults in the community and up to 50 percent in nursing homes have frailty, which is a state of increased vulnerability resulting from a decline in function across multiple systems of the body. The "oldest old" are especially at risk of developing the condition. 

Maintaining physical function as we age is key to living independently and continuing the lifestyle and activities that bring us meaning and joy. 

The Marcus Institute's research into the physical health and function of older adults focuses in six main areas: 

  • Mobility
  • Nutrition
  • Arthritis
  • Frailty
  • Osteoporosis
  • Falls

Marcus Institute Research About Maintaining Mobility and Preventing Frailty in Older Adults

The Marcus Institute's research programs are dedicated to uncovering how physical health and function of older adults impacts their quality of life, and discovering interventions to maintain physical health and function. 

Marcus Institute researchers are: 

  • Investigating innovative methods to measure and apply frailty in various clinical and research settings
  • Examining the prevalence, causes, and prevention of frailty
  • Studying the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders including fractures, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, sarcopenia and hyperkyphosis
  • Examining the role of diet and nutrition in bone and muscle health and frailty
  • Conducting ground-breaking research in the use of non-invasive brain stimulation to improve mobility and balance and reduce falls among older adults

Explore this section to learn more about current research projects underway to study and improve physical health and function in older adults. 

Find current research projects

Showing 39 Results

Adaptive Biologically-Controlled Home Environments to Promote Health in Older Adults

This research aims to provide proof-of-concept that environmental sensors (e.g. temperature, humidity, light, and sound) can be used to adjust ambient environments where people live, and thereby improve the health and function of older adults.

Principal Investigator

Applications of Claims-Based Frailty Index to Advance Evidence for Frailty-Guided Decision-Making

This research aims to generate evidence needed for frailty-guided clinical care and
population health management by applying a claims-based frailty index to routine health care databases, including patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.
NIH R01AG071809

Principal Investigator

Blueberries, Gut Microbiota, and Metabolites in Depressed Older Adults - A Pilot Study

This research aims to gather preliminary data on whether daily intake of a whole-food source of dietary fiber and anthocyanins (via freeze-dried blueberry powder) modulates the gut microbiota, increases depression-relevant gut-derived metabolites, and ameliorates depressive symptoms. 

USDA/NIFA 1029789

Principal Investigator

Join this Research Study

Boston OAIC: A Translational Approach to Function Promoting Therapies

The Boston Older Americans Independence Center (Boston OAIC) is an interdisciplinary research network to foster translational research in function promoting therapies (FPTs) – pharmacologic, physical, nutritional, technological and behavioral interventions that reduce the burden of disabling functional limitations in older adults. 

The overarching goal of the OAIC is to strengthen and expand our expertise and scientific resources in the areas of vascular biology, physiology, genetics, epidemiology, and biostatistics, in order to enhance our understanding of the vascular role in age-related physical and cognitive functional decline, design new interventions to ameliorate this decline, and train new investigators skilled in related areas of gerontologic research. 

Dr. Lipsitz is a member of the Boston OAIC Leadership and Administrative Core (LAC). He also directs the Research Education Core (REC).

Dr. Kiel is a director of the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC). 

Dr. Travison is a director the Biostatistical Design and Analysis Core (BDAC).

Boston Pepper Center

Principal Investigator

Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions Pilot Core

This Pilot Core will support a group of innovative and scientifically rigorous pilot studies each year that will enable the Boston Roybal Center to develop and test behavior change- strategies that promote healthy aging, especially for persons at high risk for poor health outcomes.  The work of the Core will ultimately lead to interventions to achieve health-promoting behavior change in vulnerable, at-risk populations.    

Boston Roybal Center

Principal Investigator

Combining Testosterone Therapy and Exercise to Improve Function Post Hip Fracture (STEP-HI)

This research aims to evaluate, in elderly female hip fracture patients, the benefits of short-term testosterone therapy combined with supervised exercise, on mobility and quality of life during the year following the fracture.

NIH R01AG051647

Principal Investigators

Cortical Mechanisms and Modulation of Foot Sole Tactile Sensation in Aging and Disease

This research aims to study whether increasing excitability of somatosensory brain networks using a noninvasive technology called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is of great promise to augment foot sole sensation, and thus balance and mobility, in vulnerable older adults suffering from mild-to-moderate sensory impairments associated with type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

NIH K01AG075180

Principal Investigator

Cortical Mechanisms and Modulation of Somatosensation in Older Adults with Foot Sole Somatosensory Impairments

This research aims to examine whether increasing excitability of brain cortical networks as activated by controlled walking-related foot stimulation using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can improve balance and mobility, in older adults suffering from mild-to-moderate foot sole somatosensory impairments.

NIH 1K01AG075180-01

Principal Investigator

Detecting Frailty in Home Environments Through Non-Invasive Whole Room Body Heat Sensing in Older Adults

This research aims to develop a frailty identification algorithm based on heat sensing technology to allow measurement of frailty in the older persons’ living environment.



Principal Investigators

Join a Research Study

I-STIM Study

The goal of the study is to determine whether non-invasive brain stimulation improves balance, walking, and memory in older adults.

I-STIM Faculty


The goal of the study is to determine whether the senolytic medications Dasatinib and Quercetin can reduce senescent cells, increase mobility (walking speed), and improve memory in older adults.


Berries and Steps Study

The goal of this study is to learn about the relationship between antioxidants (commonly found in blueberries) and motivation to exercise. Researchers think that supplementing one's diet with antioxidants on a daily basis may be a practical way to reduce inflammation and improve lack of motivation to exercise.

Berries and Steps Study Faculty

tACS and Dual-Tasking Study

The goal is to determine whether non-invasive brain stimulation improves balance and walking.

tACS and Dual-Tasking Study Faculty

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