By Wendy S. Meyer
In our youth-obsessed society, there is no question that attitudes toward growing older are overwhelmingly negative. One CCTSI member and pilot awardee believes these negative attitudes determine whether or not older adults make physical activity part of their daily routine.
“There is a large body of literature showing that most people hold negative views on aging and that these negative views keep them from doing things that help promote successful and productive aging,” says Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Manfred Diehl, PhD. In response, Diehl developed a program called AgingPLUS, and was recently awarded a $2.7 million National Institute of Health R01 grant to conduct a randomized controlled trial titled “Testing Psychological Mechanisms to Promote Physical Activity in Adults.” It will follow 320 study participants over the course of an entire year.
In his success, Diehl credits the CCTSI on several fronts. He was an awardee of the CCTSI CSU Pilot grant, which enabled him to collect preliminary data that he used in the R01 application. Diehl also participated in the CCTSI Research Studio
when the NIH suggested he resubmit his application after he received a positive response but a score that was too low to secure funding.
When he learned that his resubmission would be funded, he was extremely pleased, noting that three years of work led to the proposal. “We compete with researchers from stellar institutions nationwide and being able to compete at that top range is a great accomplishment,” Diehl says.
In the trial, his team will use the AgingPLUS program to focus on three mechanisms: making people’s negative views on aging more positive; increasing people’s sense of mastery; and teaching people better goal planning strategies. “When it comes to health change behavior, often people have intentions and can articulate their goals but they lack the specific skills that lead to actions that lead to the achievement of these goals,” he says.
Through the five-year grant, Diehl hopes to be able to show on a large scale that the AgingPLUS program works. After that, he says he wants to focus on scaling the program so it could be delivered in community settings, and also make evidence-based recommendations for those who want to be more active.
Right now, he and his team at CSU are focused on preparing to recruit study participants, which they plan to start doing this spring. In the meantime, he says he would encourage fellow researchers to engage with the CCTSI, “I think the CCTSI is a great institution and a great community of like-minded researchers who all have the mission to translate the basic science for the well-being of our population.”
Manfred Diehl, PhD, developed the AgingPLUS program.