Mobility is related to maintaining physical functionality and independence, particularly for the aging population that dwells within the community. Seniors that remain mobile experience delayed onset of chronic disease, better mental health and improved physical condition.
Identifying the risk profile of the individual and providing intervention, education and physical therapy will greatly impact the frequency and severity of injuries resulting from falls or frailty, and will lead to improved mobility and resilience.
Dr. Lori Letts and Dr. Julie Richardson of the School of Rehabilitation Sciences are conducting a study involving self-assessment of preclinical disability using a Physical Functioning Inventory, which enables online communication with the health care provider and rapid access to strategies to address the concerns of the patient. This is a new model for delivering health care, and has anticipated outcomes of supporting patient autonomy and engagement, identifying early risk indicators of functional decline, and providing efficient and low cost access to physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Dr. Brenda Vrkljan, an associate professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science and an occupational therapist, conducts research that aims to facilitate the mobility and independence of the senior population. Through collaboration with Dr. Robert Fleisig in the Faculty of Engineering, Dr. Vrkljan works to develop vehicle adaptations that will promote safe driving among the elderly, which in turn promotes aging-in-place of choice. Moreover, Dr. Vrkljan is developing a screening tool to be used by health practitioners to identify seniors at risk for unsafe driving; driver rehabilitation is an area of emerging focus in clinical practice and this tool would enable clinicians to assess the need for intervention. The overall goal of Dr. Vrkljan's research is to extend the ability to drive, a primary factor in mobility and independence, as long as possible among the elderly.
Dr. Monica Maly of the School of Rehabilitation Sciences is interested in the amount and type of exercise (particularly yoga) for seniors with arthritis. Her research will investigate a "prescription" of exercise, including movements that will strengthen muscles without straining the knees of arthritic patients. Using biomechanics, Dr. Maly aims to introduce exercise interventions that will improve mobility and slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.