Document Type

Report

Publication Date

1-2018

Date of Final Presentation

Spring 3-8-2018

Committee Chair

Pam Strohfus, DNP, RN

Committee Member

Cara Gallegos, PhD., RN

Coordinator/ Chair of DNP Program

Pam Strofus, DNP, RN

Abstract/ Executive Summary

Abstract

Problem Description: Globally, the older adult population is expected to substantially increase in number throughout the next few decades. The aging process causes the body and mind to undergo many detrimental changes. Typically, older adults succumb to a more sedentary lifestyle due to factors such as decreased musculature and skeletal changes, chronic pain, socioeconomic and psychological stressors, and memory changes. Inevitably, health-related quality of life and overall independence dwindles in this population negating their perception of happiness and life satisfaction. There is significant research on preventing and/or managing cognitive disabilities in the older adult; however, Western medicine approaches, such as prescription medications are unsuccessful in reducing cognitive decline. Research suggests that engaging in routine physical exercise is an alternative, cost-effective method to reduce the effects of aging, cognitively and physically.

Interventions: An aerobic walking program was instituted in an Assisted Living Facility, where most of the older adults had begun to lead sedentary lifestyles. Older adults (>60 years) with mild cognitive impairments and decreased quality of life factors were invited to join the walking program. The residents were asked to walk a minimum of three times per week for 30 minutes over a five-month period. A walking log and the National Institutes of Health endorsed Cognitive and Positive Affect/Well-Being short form surveys were completed by the residents at specific time intervals throughout the project assessing whether improvement in cognitive abilities and quality of life factors occurred with increased physical activity.

Results: Initially, 28 residents volunteered to participate in the walking program. Illness and personal reasons caused six residents to drop out, resulting in 22 active participants. A paired t-test, using a confidence interval of 95%, was used on the Cognitive short form survey results at project start and end. The mean values of all eight variables significantly increased over the course of the project (p

Interpretation: In this project, aerobic walking significantly improved cognitive domains, such as concentration, reading comprehension, thinking speed, managing time, planning activities, and learning new instructions and/or tasks. Although this project was of short duration, the results substantiated that maintaining active lifestyles is necessary for older adults to preserve independence, combat cognitive deterioration, while sustaining happiness and life satisfaction in both physical and cognitive realms.

Conclusions: Older adults, who keep physically and mentally fit as they age, enjoy longer, healthier, happier lives. Health care systems will benefit from decreased health care costs. Providers will benefit by not enduring patient-load strain. Families/caregivers will experience less financial and emotional burden caring for ill, older adults in the future. Engaging in routine, physical exercise throughout aging is a simple, cost-effective measure in preserving numerous cognitive and quality of life factors.

Keywords: older adults, mild cognitive impairment, aerobic exercise, quality of life

Available for download on Thursday, April 16, 2020

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