$3.2 million MERIT Award for study on disability and recovery in older persons

November 21, 2005

The National Institute on Aging has awarded Yale School of Medicine researcher Thomas M. Gill, M.D., a $3.2 million MERIT award for outstanding research to continue his "PEP" study to better understand how older persons manage day-to-day activities and remain independent at home.

Titled "Epidemiology of Disability and Recovery in Older Persons," the study includes 754 participants age 70 or older from the greater New Haven area. Over the last eight years, participants have shared their experiences during a series of home interviews and monthly telephone interviews focusing on essential activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and walking. Based on this information, Gill, associate professor of medicine/geriatrics, and his team, have written many articles for leading medical journals. "Through this effort, older New Haven residents are helping the whole country," said Gill.

The findings to date reveal that disability often begins after a serious illness or injury and changes may appear after a hospital stay or even after a few days in bed. Gill has also found that many older people recover from these disabling episodes and resume their usual activities. He said regular exercise helps with the recovery of independence. In addition, four out of 10 participants experience chronic pain; older persons use a number of different strategies to reduce the level of their pain.

"Our results have provided strong evidence to support the idea that disability is a reversible and often recurrent event," said Gill. "PEP addresses an important problem in the lives of many older Americans and their families. By better understanding disability, we hope to develop new ways to maintain and restore independence among older persons."

In granting MERIT awards, the NIH identifies researchers "whose research productivity and accomplishments are distinctly superior and who are highly likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner."

Gill's research team includes Theodore R. Holford, Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Public Health; Heather Allore, associate research scientist, Zhenchao Guo, M.D. and Ling Han, M.D., biostatisticians; Evelyne Gahbauer, M.D., senior data manager, Denise Shepard, project coordinators and Joanne McGloin, project director.
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Yale University

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