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Home-Based Training and Therapy Extend Life in Elderly

Last Updated: March 30, 2009.

Teaching elderly and infirm people how to safely perform daily activities and achieve personal functional goals can markedly extend their lives, according to a report in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

MONDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Teaching elderly and infirm people how to safely perform daily activities and achieve personal functional goals can markedly extend their lives, according to a report in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Laura N. Gitlin, Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues recruited 319 elderly people (aged 70 years and older) living at home in an urban setting who had difficulty performing daily activities. The intervention group of 160 seniors received home occupational and physical therapy sessions to teach them compensatory strategies, home modifications and safety, fall recovery techniques, and muscle strength and balance exercises, while the 159 seniors in the control group received usual care.

At the two-year endpoint, the participants in the intervention group had a 5.6 percent mortality rate overall (nine deaths) and the control group had a 13.2 percent rate (21 deaths), the investigators found. The mortality rate for the intervention group remained low after 3.5 years. Sorted by risk, the mortality rates at two years for the intervention and control groups, respectively, were: low risk 0 percent and 10.7 percent; moderate risk 3.1 percent and 14.1 percent; and high risk 14.6 percent and 13 percent, the report indicates.

"These findings suggest that a relatively brief, nonpharmacological intervention that helps older people use cognitive, behavioral, and environmental strategies to reach self-identified functional goals has survivorship benefits that persist. The survivorship advantage extended well beyond the Advanced Better Living for Elders' six-month active phase of hands-on intensive skills-training," the authors write.

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