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

Determinants and Outcomes of Age-related Muscle Loss

This research aims to measure total muscle mass (via the D3-creatine dilution method) in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) and determine its association with genetic and non-genetic risk factors, and their relation with falls, injurious falls, and fractures in two large, community-based cohort of older adults.

NIH 1R01AG065265

Principal Investigator

Dietary Intervention Targeting Inflammation, Motivation, and Engagement in Physical Activity in Sedentary, Older Adults with Depressive Symptoms

This research aims to pilot test a dietary intervention designed to target inflammation, and ultimately improve motivation to engage in physical activity. The two major goals of this study are:  

1. To determine the feasibility and acceptability of a dietary intervention in older adults with depressive symptoms.

 2. To evaluate if modulation of inflammation improve lack of motivation, thereby increasing the engagement in physical activity.

Funded by a pilot award from The Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions 

Principal Investigator

Eleanor and Herbert Bearak Healthy Lifestyles Program

This research aims to support individuals in articulating their vision of their best selves and then equip them with the knowledge and tools to perform at their highest cognitive potential, move toward the realization of that vision, and be satisfied with the outcome of their efforts. 

Principal Investigator

Feasibility of a Multicomponent Frailty Intervention in the Setting of Post-acute Rehabilitation in Skilled Nursing Facilities

This research aims to determine the feasibility of administering an exercise and nutritional supplementation to frail older adults in a skilled nursing facility.


Principal Investigator

Harvard Translational Research in Aging Program (T32)

The specific aims of this training program are: 1) to provide a 2-year training program in basic and clinical aging research for postdoctoral trainees, 2) to bring together scientists across a broad range of basic and clinical research through seminars, didactic sessions, shared laboratory experiences, and collaborative projects.

Learn More

Principal Investigators

Healthy Aging Initiative

The Hebrew SeniorLife Healthy Aging Initiative is a longitudinal cohort study of older adults to identify biological and lifestyle predictors of lifelong health and well-being, as well as early biomarkers for disease, and enable development of interventions to promote healthy aging and add life to years.

The initiative leverages the expertise of all scientists at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research. 

The Healthy Aging Initiative aims to:

•    Identify the factors and predictors of lifelong health and well-being

•    Identify early biomarkers for disease and rate of aging

•    Determine factors that modify the progression of disease

•    Discover risks for specific illnesses

•    Enable the development of interventions

•    Ultimately expand the initiative to include a diverse population of older adults 

The Healthy Aging Initiative will take place at all Hebrew SeniorLife housing sites in 2023 including Jack Satter House, Center Communities of Brookline, NewBridge on the Charles, Orchard Cove, and Simon C. Fireman Community. We will be rotating through all the sites in order to conduct Healthy Aging Initiative assessments in-person, at a location that is convenient for participants.

Principal Investigator

High Frequency Monitoring of the Home Environment and Health and Wellbeing of Older Adults

This research aims to quantify the relationships between the physical home environment and health and wellbeing of older adults. 

Principal Investigator

Home-based transcranial electrical stimulation program

The goal of this funding is to support research efforts to test the feasibility and effects of long-term, home-based transcranial electric stimulation on mobility and cognition in older adults with elevated falls risk, and in patients with Parkinson’s disease. 


Supported by BrightFocus Foundation

Principal Investigators

Identifying Osteoporosis Genes by Whole Genome Sequencing and Functional Validation in Zebra Fish

This research aims to identify potential causal-variants and their targeted genes via fine-mapping on previously reported GWAS loci of osteoporosis and identify potential targets for osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures therapy.

NIH R01AR072199

Principal Investigator

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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