Chris Knight (far left) joins other speakers in the "Evidence-Based Healthy Aging" class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: Megan Wenner, Matt Kuczmarski, Meghan Ramick, Jody Greaney, and Maria Bellumori.

Healthy aging

Physiology faculty, staff share research with Osher Lifelong Learning students

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1:45 p.m., Feb. 25, 2013--How does aging affect hormonal regulation?  Can resistance training ward off bone and muscle loss?  What are the cardiovascular benefits of fatty acids?

In a class called “Evidence-Based Healthy Aging,” students at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Delaware are getting the answers to these and other health-related questions directly from faculty and graduate student researchers. 

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Led by Chris Knight, associate professor in UD’s Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology (KAAP), the semester-long class features a slate of speakers delivering interactive lectures on topics including cardiovascular fitness, exercise training theory, musculoskeletal health, and Alzheimer’s awareness.

Knight kicked off the class by defining translational research as “applying the findings of basic research to enhance human health and well being.”

“We want to bring our work to society — not just to the library,” he said.

The course is the brainchild of Jody Greaney, a doctoral student studying blood pressure control under Bill Farquhar, professor and KAAP department chair.  Like many of her fellow health sciences graduate students, Greaney has drawn on the Osher program’s  population for her research.

“This has been an incredible resource in terms of providing people who are willing to be research subjects for us,” she said at the opening lecture. “The course is a way that we can give something back to all of you.”

Jim Broomall, associate provost of Professional and Continuing Studies, which oversees UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning programs, sees the class as a win-win, across-campus project.

“We’re extremely fortunate and delighted to have an opportunity to learn from the research carried out by the College of Health Sciences,” he said. “This is a great forum for emerging scholars to share their research with an engaged community of learners.”

The topic of the course obviously struck a chord with Osher members — more than 80 students signed up for the class.

“Their enthusiasm and the number of questions and comments raised during the lectures reveals the significant interest they have in all aspects of healthy aging,” said Rosanne Cholewinski, who also teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

For Knight, “healthy” is the key word in the course title.

“Health in itself isn’t the goal,” he said. “It’s about being able to take a trip to China or socialize with friends.  If you’re not healthy, you can’t do those things. Chronic illness is a significant limitation to the activities of daily living.”

“We know that exercise works to improve health,” he added, “but we haven’t fixed anything yet. We have a solution in our hands, but we haven’t figured out how to translate it to society.”

In addition to introducing their topics each week and presenting related research data, the speakers focus on questions that remain to be answered, and they offer potential lifestyle modifications for the class to consider.

“Our faculty and students are important players in the translational pathway towards improved health,” Knight said. “This course is a way that we can share our work directly with people who stand to benefit from the findings.”

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Evan Krape

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