Research Projects

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on

Aging with a Disability

Research Projects

Specific research projects are being conducted to investigate problems people are facing as they age with a disability. The heart of our research is a 1,000-person sample of individuals with a variety of impairments who we studied over the last ten years under auspices of our previous RRTCs. This sample contains individuals with post-polio, cerebral palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, early-onset stroke and spinal cord injury as well as an aged-matched non-disabled control group. The sample with disability has a wide range of current ages (25 – 85) and durations since onset (3 – 40 years). Data have been collected on demographic, medical, functional, psychological and social variables on all persons. This sample constitutes the best one in existence for the longitudinal study of the aging with disability phenomena.

The following projects are underway:
The Natural Course of Aging with a Disability
Prevention of Secondary Complications
Effectiveness of Assistive Technology and Environmental Interventions in Maintaining Functional Performance
Shoulder Pain
The Natural Course of Aging with a Disability

Bryan Kemp, Ph.D., Laura Mosqueda, M.D.

Recent investigations into aging with a disability have begun to enumerate new medical, functional and psychosocial problems people experience. However, previous research has not been longitudinal in nature, thus little data actually describe changes, but rather age differences. This study is using a 1,000-person database as a framework for a cross-sequential (longitudinal) study of aging. Individuals are being reassessed who were studied about 10 years earlier. Objective examinations rather than self-report will be used.

Prevention of Secondary Complications in People Aging with a Disability
Laura Mosqueda, M.D.

Findings from our earlier research on aging with disability indicated that several medical problems are far more prevalent in persons with a disability than in the general population. Three of these problems are respiratory illnesses, diabetes and thyroid disease, each of which occurs 300-400% more often. The objectives of this study are 1) to assess the effects of providing consumers and their primary care health providers with feedback about these problems in order to have them treated, and 2) to investigate the prevalence of these problems in relation to severity of functional impairment.

Interventions to Improve Functional Performance in Individuals Aging with a Spinal Cord Injury Who Have Shoulder Pain

The incidence of shoulder pain among persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) is greater than that identified in the non-disabled population and is attributed to weight bearing tasks of the arm, such as wheelchair propulsion, transfers, and raises. Shoulder pain is an escalating issue in this population; with increasing age and duration of injury there is also an increase in the risk for rotator cuff tear. We are currently recruiting subjects for this study who have had SCI for 5 years or more and who are experiencing shoulder pain during functional tasks. Our research includes an exercise program with equipment, performance consultation, and educational instruction.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with a Disability
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
7601 E. Imperial Hwy, Building 800-W
Downey, California 90242;  (voice) 562-401-7402; (fax) 562-401-7011
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