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

Mechanistic Effects of Combined Testosterone Therapy and Exercise on Axial Bone and Muscle Post-Hip Fracture

This research aims to investigate the hormonal mechanisms of action for exercise and transdermal testosterone on the skeleton and muscle in a parent study of frail older women during recovery from hip fracture.

NIH R01AR075346

Principal Investigator

Mentoring Patient-Oriented Research to Prevent Injury in Older Adults

The goal of this Midcareer Investigator Award is to grow the field of young investigators properly trained in aging research, and to improve the health of frail, older adults through Dr. Berry`s research efforts focused on unintentional injury.


K24 AG070106

Principal Investigators

Mid-Career Mentoring Award For Patient-Oriented Research in Frailty and Health Outcomes

This project aims to develop a mentoring program in frailty research for early-stage and new investigators; conduct high-quality research to determine heterogeneity of treatment effects by frailty for a broad range of medical and surgical interventions; and enhance PI’s new research skills, mentoring capacity, and leadership.

K24 AG073527

Principal Investigators

Modulating Brain Networks to Reduce Gait Variability in Older Adults at Risk of Falling

This research aims to examine the effects of non-invasive brain stimulation on resting-state functional connectivity and gait variability and related outcomes in older adults at risk of falling.

NIH 1K01AG075252-01

Principal Investigator

Multifocal Transcranial Current Stimulation for Cognitive and Motor Dysfunction in Dementia

This research aims to assess the possibility of concurrent targeting prefrontal (executive-control) and memory brain circuits to improve different cognitive disabilities in individuals with dementia using personalized, multi-focal non-invasive brain stimulation delivered as a home-based, remotely supervised intervention.
NIH R01AG076708

Principal Investigators

NFLPA/Harvard Accelerated Research Collaboration to Protect and Improve the Health of Football Players

The project will implement kinematic assessments of gait and balance into the Harvard Football Players Health Study (FPHS) in-person assessments of retired professional American-style football players. The scientific aim of this study is to determine the effects of long-term exposure to this sport on health outcomes in later life.


Principal Investigator

NIA AD/ADRD Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory (IMPACT)

The NIA AD/ADRD Collaboratory will provide the national infrastructure necessary to catalyze and support embedded pragmatic clinical trials of non-pharmacological interventions for persons with dementia. By convening national experts to provide consultation and guidance to Collaboratory-funded pilot projects and NIA-funded trials, the Collaboratory has the potential to transform care delivery, quality, and outcomes for millions of Americans suffering with AD/ADRD.


Principal Investigator

Novel Molecular Biomarkers of Bone Microarchitecture

This research aims to determine the role of metabolomics in age-related bone loss and fractures; and if clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential contributes to bone density, microarchitecture, and strength.

NIH R01AR041398

Principal Investigator

Nursing Home Prevention of Injury in Dementia (NH PRIDE)

This research aims to develop and implement an Injury Liaison Service in four nursing home facilities that will promote deprescribing psychoactive and cardiometabolic drugs and encourage osteoporosis treatment.

NIH R01AG062492

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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