UAB gets $2.8-million for study on aging

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – UAB will be starting up a new study on aging after receiving a large grant.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care has been awarded a five-year, $2.8 million grant to study factors that help adults age 75 and older maintain independence and mobility even after experiencing serious illness, hospitalizations and more.

This new study will build on Phase I of the UAB Study of Aging, in which investigators created and documented the importance of a tool called Life-Space Assessment to measure mobility and social participation. The Life-Space Assessment analyzes how frequently an older adult moves through five different life-space zones: the bedroom, home, yard, neighborhood and town. The assessment also records how much outside assistance the individual needs to navigate those zones.

The five-minute assessment results in a score that ranges from zero to 120, with higher scores reflecting greater mobility. A low score on the Life-Space Assessment or a decline in the life-space score predict the likelihood of disability, nursing home admission and death.

"Access to transportation, improving care for persons with diabetes and heart failure, reducing symptoms such as pain and fatigue and increasing physical activity all are potential ways to help older adults maintain life-space mobility," said Richard Allman, M.D., professor and director of the Birmingham/Atlanta VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC), the UAB Center for Aging and the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care.

"However, persons over the age of 75 require special attention to help them maintain mobility and social participation," Allman said. "The UAB Study of Aging II will identify the most important ways to prevent mobility declines in this particular age group."