Michigan Health Endowment Fund will support research into healthy aging at Wayne State

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund has awarded more than $256,000 to Wayne State University to help prevent frailty in older African Americans in Metro Detroit.

The project, called "Frailty Prevention in Older African Americans," will pilot an evidence-based, integrative approach to preventing frailty. Indicators of frailty include unintentional weight loss, weakness, exhaustion, and low physical activity; having two or more of these indicators increases an older adult's risk for early death and disability. Heather Fritz, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and the Institute of Gerontology, will lead the project.

"Despite the significant financial and social consequences to frailty, barriers impede our ability to reach those most at risk," said Fritz. "Thanks to the generosity of the Health Fund, this project will focus on community-dwelling, pre-frail older African Americans to prevent frailty, promote independence and improve physical, social, and emotional health among community dwelling older adults."

The two-year project begins in March 2018 and will partner with the Rosa Parks Geriatric Center of Excellence to identify up to 150 pre-frail African American older adults in the area. The model will offer participants customized rehabilitative and lifestyle behavior change interventions before frailty develops, with the ultimate goal of establishing a new occupational therapy model within the primary care system.

Between 10 and 25 percent of older adults experience frailty in later life, and approximately 50 percent of older adults are considered "pre-frail," or beginning to demonstrate characteristics associated with frailty. Without intervention, pre-frail older adults are two to three times more likely to develop frailty within three to seven years than non-frail elders.

This award is part of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund's larger Healthy Aging initiative for seniors.

"If we can prevent frailty before it develops, we can maintain our independence and participate more fully in society as we age," said Kari Sederburg, senior program officer with the Health Fund. "The Health Fund is pleased to support Wayne State University's important work, which has the potential to improve older adults' quality of life and save on healthcare costs."

(December 11, 2017)

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