Dawn Mackey receives Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar Award to enhance older adult mobility

Dawn Mackey receives Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar Award to enhance older adult mobility
Dr. Dawn Mackey received the 2014 Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar Award

Mobility is a key component of health and is necessary for older adults to maintain independent functioning and autonomy. Unfortunately, 30 - 40% of older adults report mobility limitations, which have profound impacts on independence and quality of life; they are a precursor to mobility disability and increased dependence in activities of daily living, entry into nursing homes, and mortality. Limitations to mobility result from acute events, such as fall-related injuries, and chronic processes, such as high energetic costs of movement and lack of physical activity.

The objective is to establish a research program that will help older adults live active, healthier, and more independent lives through obtaining and disseminating high-quality evidence to enhance mobility. Dr. Mackey has identified several major gaps in research on older adult mobility and has initiated an innovative program focused on three inter-related research pillars: Pillar A) Injury Prevention; Pillar B) Movement Energetics; and Pillar C) Physical Activity. Integrated knowledge translation will bridge insights into action.

Under Pillar A, Dr. Mackey will evaluate compliant flooring as an injury prevention strategy in long-term care, including studies of clinical- and cost-effectiveness, ergonomics, and user acceptability. Under Pillar B, she will quantify the intensity of daily activities, determine how the energetic demands of walking influence fatigue and walking speed, and test the ability of exercise to reduce the energetic demands of walking. Under Pillar C, she will investigate the effects of financial incentives to increase adherence to physical activity among sedentary older adults.

Within the next two decades, 25% of Canada’s population will be elderly. Clinical research on mobility and aging is critically essential to ensure healthy aging for Canadians and the sustainability of health care costs. The program promises novel insights about the cause and prevention of age-related mobility limitations, which will be readily translated into new strategies to enhance mobility by preventing fall-related injuries, reducing the energetic cost of daily activities, and increasing physical activity.