In this research group, we are conducting studies that examine the impact of healthy lifestyle behaviors on the aging process.
Transnational Strategies for the Promotion of Physical Activity and Active Aging: The World Health Organization Model of Consensus
Building in International Public Health
For a number of years, my colleagues and I have had the good fortune to work on a series of projects sponsored by the Aging and Life Course
Program at the World Health Organization (WHO). The Aging and Life Course program has systematically advocated for a public health agenda that
includes an increased focus on chronic disease prevention through the reduction of high risk behaviors, such as, stopping smoking and reducing
excessive alcohol consumption, and the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices, including increased physical activity and adequate and healthy
nutrition (Kalache, 1996). In a recent publication (Chodzko-Zajko & Schwingel, 2009), my colleague Andiara Schwingel and I examined the four
step process adopted by the WHO in its systematic campaign to promote physically active lifestyles by older adults across the 193 member states
of the WHO. The four steps adopted by the WHO include (1) Building Consensus Among Professionals; (2) Educating the Public and Building Consumer
Demand; (3) Developing an Active Aging Public Policy Framework; and (4) Refining, Expanding, and Evolving the Model. For each of these steps the
WHO approach sought input from a wide variety of sources in each of the six WHO regions (Africa; Americas; South-East Asia; Europe; Eastern
Mediterranean; Western Pacific) in order to systematically build a transnational consensus with regard to the importance of regular physical
activity as a critical component of the prevention of chronic disease and the promotion of high quality of life in the older adult population.
European Union Consensus Consortium on Frailty
In 2011 the European Union established a consortium of experts from around the world who were charged with the development of a consensus
definition of frailty for application across the member states of the European Union.
As the older adult population grows across the European States, strategies for promoting health, independence, and quality of life among
the older population are perceived to be of increasing importance. One important area involves identifying those older persons who are frail
and at highest risk for disability and loss of independence. The FOD-CC (Frailty Operative Definition-Consensus Collaboration) project aims
at providing a consensus definition of “frailty” involving experts from a variety of different disciplines with the goal of developing the most
complete and concrete definition of frailty to date.
Using the Delphi Questionnaire Technique, experts from across Europe and North America have examined frailty from a variety of different
disciplinary perspectives. Disciplinary groups include Geriatricians; Non-Geriatric Clinicians; Health Workers; Basic Scientists; and Social
Professor Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko is representing the University of Illinois on the FOD-CC project and on the FOD-CC writing group. The
consortium will meet next in Madrid in October 2011 and expects to publish the outcomes of the project in 2012.
Cultural Perspectives on Physical Activity among Older Latina Women
Despite the growing awareness of the health benefits of physical activity, participation levels are disappointingly low throughout US.
Most individuals do not reach the (DHHS) nationally recommended guidelines for physical activity (150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity
physical activity), with older adults representing the least active age group. Underserved populations are a particularly vulnerable group for
physical inactivity possibly because public health messages and interventions appear to be less effective in minority groups. Dr. Schwingel of
the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health is working with colleagues across campus and from the University of Illinois at Chicago to
identify factors that affect physical activity decisions among Latina women aged 65 and older.
This research project proposes to examine the ways in which socio-cultural context impacts the health behavior of
older Latinas, in particular, seeking to analyze barriers and facilitators to physical activity participation in aging
minorities. The main purpose of the study is to increase our understanding of the factors that contribute to physical
activity decisions among older Latina women. Specifically, using a mixed methods design, our goal is to explore perceptions,
attitudes and values about physical activity in older Latina adults. We will do this by investigating: (1) older Latina adults'
understanding and awareness of the term physical activity; (2) their interpretation of the socio-cultural contexts in which
they chose (or chose not) to be physically active; and (3) their visualization of physical activity opportunities and barriers
in their local environment.
This is the first study to use accelerometers and photo elicitation to explore the socio-cultural and structural factors that shape
perceptions, attitudes, values and behavior regarding physical activity in urban and rural settings. Photo elicitation is a research technique that invites
participants to take photographs of salient features in their lives that are both personally meaningful and possess
significant explanatory power. The overall goal of our research agenda is to increase our understanding of how Latinas
conceptualize physical activity with the ultimate goal of increasing the physical activity levels in this population.
Following an investigation of physical activity levels, we collected photographs from each participant—depicting interpretations of
physical activity, exercise resources in the community, and aspects of physical and social environment that influence physical activity
and health behavior. Photographs were used as a platform for in-depth interviews that were carried out for selected physically active and
Preliminary findings underscore a significant difference between older Latina women living in rural areas, who on average engage in less than
30 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, and those in urban areas, who achieved approximately 100 minutes. Data analysis of
qualitative data indicates that the women’s strong faith and family responsibilities play a major role in their lives, and may act as both barriers
to and facilitators of healthy and active lifestyles. We are in the initial stages of developing a culturally-competent and research-grounded
intervention in this population.
New Technology Project
The main purpose of the New Technology project is to understand how older adults interact with new technologies and to develop a new technology
adoption/acceptance model for older adults. Although we can assume that technology can improve older adults’ quality of life, only a small percentage of
older adults have been using new some sort of technology. Yet, we do not specifically know how certain technologies work for improving the quality of life
for older adults. This fact is the starting point of this project.We are currently exploring four different categories of technology, a simple/complex version
of TV remote controls and a simple/complex version of commercially available step counters. Our research explores such factors as technology anxiety, self-efficacy,
previous experience, confidence, education, gender, emotional response, usefulness, design for older adults, needs, effectiveness, adjustment and the subjective
meaning of new technologies to older adults.
New AGE is a design program for developing therapeutic recreational facilities in conjunction with attractive greenscapes.
The concept originated within the green industry where recreation areas are designed for golf courses and sports fields. While
community park and recreation areas are often targeted to teenagers and young adults, the New AGE program is specifically
focused on improving the health and quality of life of older adults who are living independently, in retirement communities,
or in convalescent facilities, providing a green alternative to indoor health clubs and physical therapy settings.
The New AGE concept is significantly advanced beyond the historical design of parks.
- Each facility will provide an enriched environment that is designed to maximize the physical well being of aging adults.
- Facilities should be friendly, attractive, green environments that provide opportunities for strengthening, stretching
and flexing, and cardiovascular conditioning.
- The design, building, and testing of active green environments requires a multidisciplinary approach, utilizing the
expertise of horticulturists, landscape architects, environmental engineers, health care professionals, and kinesiologists.
Photos of the New AGE in Clark Lindsey Village (Urbana, IL, USA) . Launched on 22 September 2008.
Gazebo at night
Women exercising in a park
Crowd listening to speaker
Elderly woman exercising
Women sitting on a bench
The Healthy Moves program is an evidence-based intervention program that consists of two major components:
- a simple physical activity intervention modeled and adapted from the Senior Fitness Test work of Rikli and Jones (1999)
- a lifestyle behavior change counseling method called Brief Negotiation that was developed by behavior change experts
Prohaska and DiClemente (1983).
The integration of these two simple but effective approaches into a single, behaviorally-based intervention is highly consistent
with recent research recommendations and greatly increases the likelihood of the older adult participants in the program adopting a
more active lifestyle.
The objective of the project is to assess the feasibility of implementing simple, safe, non-equipment evidence-based movements
(Healthy Moves for Aging Well program) using an affordable and sustainable homecare-aide based delivery model that reaches the maximum
possible number of frail older adults living at home in Illinois.
Both interview and survey data revealed that most participants including older adults, homecare aides, and site directors had a positive
perception and high satisfaction of the program. Specially, 100% of older adult participants reported that they would recommend the program to
others. Additionally, seniors and homecare aides reported that they enjoyed working with each other on the program and both site directors reported
that dissemination of the program in the State of Illinois employing homecare aides was feasible and acceptable.
Our study results indicate that, with the homecare aides, Healthy Moves for Aging Well program could safely and successfully be disseminated to
a substantial group of frail older adults in the State of Illinois. We found no serious injuries or adverse events and the dissemination strategy
of integrating Healthy Moves for Aging Well within “home care aide” delivery model was feasible. Furthermore, the results have direct applicability
to designing and implementing future home care programs for older frail sedentary adults.
Active Aging News
Active Aging News is a forum on the Active Aging Community Center (AACC) website. AACC is an online community hosted by
the publishing company Human Kinetics for, about, and by researchers and practitioners in the active aging field around the
world. The AACC helps researchers and practitioners in the active aging field to further their work and facilitate the
sharing and discussion of active aging issues. The ultimate goal is to help professionals advance their study of active
aging and enhance the delivery of services to older adults. The Active Aging News allows researchers and other aging
professionals to stay informed about the current aging news around the world. News and information come from researchers
and practitioners from around the world, and anyone in the field is invited to contribute information and participate in
discussions.The members of the Aging and Diversity Lab, work together with Human
Kinetics to recruit and edit News to be published on the website. The web address to view all of the published articles
Cross-campus Bike Project