Physical Activity & Plasticity of Aging
This research area is geared towards improving or maintaining functioning (be it cognitive, physical, etc.) of older adults living in the community and in retirement and long-term care settings using innovative assessment, rehabilitation, and training programs. There is considerable research evidence demonstrating that the body is still "plastic" (plasticity refers to the ability to change) into the 90s and that this plasticity can result in changes to functional abilities. The literature is also clear in revealing that the secret of maintaining functional independence is to maintain or improve one's fitness level.
- Improving or maintaining seniors’ levels of functional independence in the community and in retirement/long-term care.
- Creating individualized care plans for residents in long-term care based on the results of comprehensive physical and neurobehavioural assessments.
- Identifying falls risk factors for older adults living in long-term care and retirement homes and developing interprofessional falls prevention programs and strategies.
- Developing innovative opportunities for residents to exercise individually or in groups
- Developing the Program for Active Living (PAL) to improve or maintain seniors’ levels of functional abilities using innovative assessment, rehabilitation, and training programs. Learn more.
- Developing a reliable assessment of functional abilities: the Schlegel Functional Fitness Assessment (SFFA).
- Examining changes in physical activity throughout the transition from community living to congregate care.
- Examining the relationships between muscle weakness and functional measures of balance and gait.
Click [HERE] to see a list of current and completed research projects.
Michael Sharratt, PhD (University of Waterloo, Schlegel-UW RIA)
Quincy Almeida, PhD (Wilfred Laurier University)
Denise Connelly, PhD (University of Western Ontario)
Jim Frank, PhD (St. Jerome’s University, University of Waterloo)
Lora Giagregorio, PhD (University of Waterloo)
Renee MacPhee, PhD (Wilfred Laurier University)
Bill McIlroy, PhD (University of Waterloo)
Laura Middleton, PhD (University of Waterloo)
Eric Roy, PhD (University of Waterloo)
Pat Spadafora, MSW (Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Sheridan Elder Research Centre)
Lori Ann Vallis, PhD (University of Guelph)
The term "plasticity" refers to the ability to mold or change the shape of something. Aging is all about change, some of it positive, some of it negative, and some of it neutral. There are some declines that are inevitable with age, such as arterial wall rigidity, kidney reserve, and impaired chemical regulations.
Early work in this research area was designed to look at the nature of change within the respiratory system of older adults. It is clear that the diaphragm loses its capacity to work at maximum power and the lungs lose their elasticity. This impacts performance even in those who may run marathons all their life.
It is possible to recapture strength, aerobic capacity and mobility. Most older adults have reductions in their endurance capacity by up to 50%. This is in part from aging, but equally from sedentary living. Our society at all ages is faced with an "inactivity epidemic" which is translating into obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease at much earlier ages. Because of our plasticity, for most people, it is never too late to improve the risk profile.
Older adults’ goal should be to remain as functionally independent for as long as possible. While they should not expect to become Olympic athletes, there is considerable research evidence demonstrating that the body is still "plastic" into the 90s and that this plasticity can result in changes to functional abilities.
The secret to maintaining functional independence is to maintain or improve fitness level:
- The downside: light, modest physical activity may not be sufficient to delay or forestall the loss of function in various body systems.
- The upside: brisk walking, balance-mobility practice, and strength training are very good investments to enhance functional fitness in older adults.
The kinesiologists at Schlegel Villages are well-positioned and well-trained to assist residents in fulfilling this worthwhile objective. They are actively involved in the Program for Active Living. The Program for Active Living (formerly the Functional Abilities Program (FAP)) started in early 1995 as the Residential Elder Assessment Program (REAP), directed by Drs Eric Roy and Jim Frank, both Professors in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, with ties to the Neurobehavioural Assessment Unit and the Centre for Applied Health Research in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.
The transition from REAP to PAL was based on a memorandum for partnership between The Village of Winston Park and the University of Waterloo in April 1997. The program was readily adopted at Winston Park and would later be recognized as a Leading Edge program by the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation.
THE PROGRESSION OF THE PROGRAM FOR ACTIVE LIVING (PAL)
1995: PAL began as “R.E.A.P .” Residential Elder Assessment Program (REAP), directed by Drs Eric Roy and Jim Frank, both Professors in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, with ties to the Neurobehavioural Assessment Unit and the Centre for Applied Health Research in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.
April 1997: Memorandum for Partnership between The Village of Winston Park and the University of Waterloo
The program was readily adopted at Winston Park and would later be recognized as a Leading Edge program by the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation.
1997: R.E.A.P. now called “Functional Abilities Program” (FAP)
1997: 1 Kinesiologist hired to work with residents in LTC of WP
1998: FAP program expansion
Now included residents living in the retirement home,
1998: 2nd Kinesiologist hired to help run FAP
1998-2011: FAP Program expanded to become a key program in each of the 11 Villages
2011-2012: Transition from “FAP” to “Program for Active Living” PAL