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New Study Aims to Help Boston Seniors Stay Healthy and Remain Independent

Researchers in the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife have begun recruiting seniors, age 70 and older, from Boston’s neighborhoods to take part in a study designed to assess their current health and any changes that may develop over a two-year period. The hope is that the information they gather will help those in the field of aging research, as well as clinicians and caregivers, discover ways to help adults remain healthy and independent as they age.

The study is called Maintenance of Balance, Independent Living, Intellect and Zest in the Elderly of Boston, or Mobilize Boston and is funded by a five-year National Institute on Aging grant. The project is one of the most comprehensive studies on aging ever conducted and plans to recruit 800 participants. This study is not looking for volunteer participants; but instead seniors will be randomly selected from neighborhoods within a five-mile radius of Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, where Marcus Institute is located.

The Mobilize Boston research team believes the contribution that these seniors will make by participating in the study will have an impact on the health of older adults for generations to come at a time when the population of older adults is rapidly expanding. The first baby boomer turned 60 on January 1, 2006. Born between 1946 and 1964, individuals from this generation will continue to reach the 60-year-old milestone at the estimated rate of one every 7.5 seconds for the next 19 years. From 2010 to 2030, the number of seniors is projected to increase by 75 percent.

Mobilize Boston will collect a comprehensive set of data that the project team will use in current studies and will make available to future investigators. Researchers are currently looking particularly at conditions that may contribute to falls among older adults. Falls represent a serious threat to seniors. They are a leading cause of fractures and accidental death in adults older than 65. Among people ages 75 years and older, those who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.

Seniors who agree to participate in the study will undergo an initial comprehensive clinical assessment and then will be followed for two years. Balance, blood flow to the brain, muscle strength, pattern of walking and touch sensation in the foot will all be examined. In addition, participants will be asked to keep a calendar that indicates if a fall occurs.