• Faculty Scholars

  • Faculty Scholars

Faculty Scholars

CIHRA solicits research proposals from interdisciplinary teams composed of at least 2 scholars from different disciplines. In proposals, Scholars identify a key issue in aging; describe a study, with timelines that range from 6 months to 24 months, they will undertake to address the issue from an interdisciplinary perspective; and submit a copy of the national funding announcement they intend to target at the end of their CIHRA award.  Applications will be accepted on a range of topics focused on midlife and older adult populations. Topics may include but are not limited to health promotion, disease prevention, family caregiving, care coordination, age-friendly environments, healthy retirement, and palliative and end-of-life care. CIHRA award recipients are expected to participate in regular CIHRA meetings and related activities, including proposal feedback and updates.

Now accepting applications for 2021!

Submissions are due by 5 pm on November 5, 2021.

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Funded Projects

Title Investigators Abstract
Noom Coach Tailored: A Culturally-Appropriate mHealth Lifestyle Intervention for Diabetes Prevention and Management Among Hispanic Older Adults Heewon Kim (PI), The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Jonathan Pettigrew (Co-I), The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Jenn-Yun Tein (Co-I), Department of Psychology Diabetes in older adults is a growing public health concern in aging America. The burden of disease disproportionately impacts Hispanics in low socioeconomic groups who suffer from limited access to health information and resources. Although digitally-enabled lifestyle interventions have been known to be clinically efficacious, they have been rarely adopted, studied, or tested in the context of Hispanic older adults from marginalized communities. To address this gap, we plan to develop an mHealth-based lifestyle intervention tailored to the needs of Hispanic older adults. CIHRA Award will be used for our pilot study that can help us (a) identify particular sociocultural factors that affect Hispanic older adults’ perceptions and adoption of mobile diabetes prevention programs, (b) demonstrate the extent of disparities among Hispanic older adults in low socioeconomic status, in comparison to White older adults, and (c) develop appropriate measurements.
Relationship Functioning and Gut Microbiota Composition Among Older Adult Couples: A Pilot Study to Assess Feasibility of Recruitment and Data Collection Shelby Langer (PI), Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown (Co-I), School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment An extensive literature on health and social relationships suggests that social ties are salutary. Marriage in particular has been found to be health-protective across a wide range of conditions and outcomes, but relationship quality matters. Marital dissatisfaction and discord have been linked to poorer physical function and immune dysregulation; these associations may be greater for older versus younger couples and females versus males. This multi-disciplinary project focuses on gut microbiota diversity among older adult same- or opposite-sex couples, an important biomarker given age-related changes in the gut microbiota. Specific aims are to: (1) test feasibility of recruitment of 30 older adult spouse pairs; (2) test feasibility of data collection of stool samples and dietary intake (given effects of diet on the gut microbiome); and (3) examine intra- and inter-personal associations between gold standard measures of relationship functioning (relationship adjustment, relationship satisfaction, communication, and intimacy) and gut microbiota composition and diversity.
Towards Real-Time Fall Risk Assessment in Parkinson’s Disease by Continuous Monitoring of Free-Living Activities Narayanan Krishnamurthi, PhD (PI), Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Pavan Turaga, PhD (Co-I), Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts + Fulton Schools, Daniel Peterson, PhD (Co-I), College of Health Solutions Falls pose a significant problem for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) with about 60% of people with PD falling per year, and it is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in PD. Falls in PD is most likely to happen during walking than in any other activity despite a wide range of factors that are known to increase the risk of falls. Therefore, understanding changes in movement characteristics during gait may help to identify any unusual/abnormal movement patterns that precede falls. The study will develop a real-time fall risk assessment in fallers with PD based on various gait and balance measures from the continuous movements data before falls/near fall events. Specifically, an index using the combination of measures that quantifies the probability of an impending fall will be developed that may lead to real-time prediction and subsequent prevention of falls.
Understanding Fall Risks and Mobility Independence in Older Adults with Smart Shoes Wenlong Zhang, PhD (Co-PI), Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Erin Chiou, PhD (Co-PI), Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Karen Marek, PhD (Co-I), Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Unintentional falls pose a great challenge for older adults. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among Arizona residents over 65 years old, responsible for 974 deaths in 2016 alone. Despite the large body of research on fall analysis, prediction, and prevention, studies are often conducted at the population health level, or on treadmills in controlled settings. Little is known about day-to-day mobility patterns that may contribute to fall risk and predictive models. Using wearable insole sensors for a smart shoes system developed by the PIs, this project aims to bridge this gap starting with a mixed methods study. The goal of this project is to pilot the viability of the smart shoes system in the field, identify fall risk based on daily activities of older adults, and allow personalized interventions to increase awareness and prevent falls.
Preventing Adverse Health Impacts of Social Distancing Among the Elderly During COVID-19 Bradley Doebbeling, MD (PI), College of Health Solutions, Frank J. Infurna, PhD (Co-I), The College, G. Mauricio Mejia, PhD (Co-I), Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Understanding older adults’ perspectives about their social determinants of health (SDoH), health-related quality of life (HRQOL), needs and priorities for their health, as well as the resources available to prevent exacerbation of social isolation in the critical era of pandemics, is critically important. Therefore, the OBJECTIVE of this study is to identify the factors influencing social isolation in older adults, and design strategies for taking action. Specific Aim 1: To identify levels of social isolation, SDoH, HRQOL and health priorities in community dwelling older adults. Specific Aim 2: To identify positive deviant strategies for social connectedness and preventing adverse health outcomes among the elderly with high cost, high needs conditions (e.g., those with comorbid medical conditions, behavioral health issues and social determinants of health). Specific Aim 3: To design strategies for tools to prevent social isolation and its detrimental consequences.
An Improvisation Intervention for Caregivers of Individuals with Dementia Robert Kaplan (Co-PI), Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Aaron Guest, PhD (Co-PI), Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation This study will develop and assess the feasibility of an improvisation-based group intervention for caregivers of individuals with mild-to-moderate dementia. The specific aims of this study are: 1. Tailor an improvisation skills program for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Dementia (ADRD). 2. Deliver and evaluate the feasibility of the improvisation intervention with three groups of caregivers. 3. Compare pre and post intervention levels of stress, cognitive flexibility, and caregiver self-efficacy. The work is grounded in the Alexander technique, an improvisation strategy that assists in developing self-efficacy to alter adverse behaviors and integrate mind-body awareness with creative problem-solving. It represents a unique collaboration of interdisciplinary faculty from the Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging (CIHRA), Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (CAIPER), and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (HIDA).
Salutary bio-psycho-social effects of Forest Therapy on older adults with long-COVID and objective cognitive impairment (OACovCI): A pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) Ted K.S. Ng, PhD, Shiyou Wu, PhD, Efrem Lim, PhD, Linda Larkey, PhD 80% of COVID-19 survivor reported ≥1 lingering symptom beyond 4 weeks post-infection, characterizing a syndrome called the long-COVID. Although primarily a respiratory disease, long-COVID has multiple impacts on other bodily systems, including “brain fog”, i.e. cognitive impairment, and neuropsychiatric sequelae. Two biological contributors to long-COVID are elevated pro-inflammatory markers and dysregulated gut microbiota, which are also risk factor causal of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Compounded with the existing increased risk in older adults, long-COVID-associated biological dysregulations will likely increase AD risk further in older adults with long-COVID and cognitive impairment (OACovCI). Addressing the scarcity of clinically effective intervention for long-COVID and informed by our previous trials on horticultural therapy and mindfulness intervention, this trans-disciplinary project will pilot a forest therapy (FT) RCT to examine if FT is feasible and efficacious with OACovCI. We will implement a single-(assessor-) blinded, wait-list-controlled, pilot RCT (N=40; 20 FT, 20 wait-list) with community-dwelling OACovCI.
Assessment and Rehabilitation of Upright Standing Balance to Avoid Falls in people with Parkinson’s Disease Daniel Peterson, PhD, Hyunglae Lee, PhD The long-term goal of this work is to improve physical therapy for fall prevention in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Falls represent an enormous burden for people with PD, leading to injury, and often, death. Physical therapy can improve balance; however, its effect on falls is often limited. A barrier to developing effective rehabilitative approaches is our lack of knowledge regarding which aspects of balance should be targeted by clinicians to reduce falls in people with PD. This project will fill this knowledge gap by measuring balance in people with PD, and then prospectively assess falls for 6 months. This project will provide pilot data for a project that will 1) immediately contribute to clinicians’ ability to develop targeted therapeutic plans to treat falls, and 2) facilitate additional research to develop approaches and technologies to improve these outcomes.