Center on Aging Research Cluster (CoARC)

The Center on Aging Research Cluster (CoARC) is a group of University of Michigan-Flint faculty, who, together with students and collaborators, are engaged in aging-focused research, professional development, and community outreach and engagement. Goals of CoARC are:

Goal 1: Enhance our understanding of physical, cognitive, psychological, and socio-economic problems and issues of older adults living in the local area of Flint, Genesee County, and beyond.

Goal 2: Propose innovative and feasible solutions to the physical, cognitive, psychological, and socio-economic problems and issues of older adults living in the local area of Flint, Genesee County, and beyond.

Goal 3: Enhance faculty and student expertise in aging-related topics.

Goal 4: Conduct engagement and outreach activities to local agencies and centers that serve adults 65 years and older.

Initial funding for the Center on Aging is from the Dr. Ben F. Bryer Foundation.

Current Research

CoARC faculty are engaged in a range of aging-focused scholarly activities. Some of the ongoing aging-focused research is listed below.

  • Factors associated with health and health care/utilization
  • Falls, balance and cognition with aging including older cancer survivors
  • Reducing fall risk and promoting function in the geriatric population
  • Delirium admission protocol in the emergency department
  • Meditation for older adults for stress reduction
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine for pain management and stress reduction in older adults
  • Effects of exercise on mitigating Parkinson’s disease symptoms
  • Developing a mobile application that tracks a range of Parkinson’s disease symptoms
  • Expression of genes that drive metastatic cell behavior in the development of malignant tumors
  • Role of genetic factors in physical performance with aging
  • Identification and intervention for factors associated with health behavior and quality of life among adults and those aging with disabilities.
  • Balance confidence assessment, self-rated health, gait variability, and physical activity with aging
  • Telehealth-based interventions incorporating respiratory exercises to improve function in older adults with chronic neurologic conditions

News

  • This Fall 4 students (2 PT and 2 OT) are participating in an Intergenerational Living Experience in Flint where they will live at a local senior housing complex. Dr. Jennifer Blackwood, Associate Professor of PT, and Dr. Nancy Milligan Clinical Associate Professor of OT are the project leaders.
  • Dr. Nathan Miller, Associate Professor of psychology at UM-Flint, is interested in the role of cycling in helping reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. To do that, he joined project called Pedaling for Parkison’s.
  • Dr. Rie Suzuki, Associate Professor of Public Health and Health Sciences, collaborates with colleagues on the Ann Arbor campus and uses cross-sectional surveys to identify environmental factors that support healthy aging among individuals with long-term physical disabilities from low income and minority communities. IDEAL RRTC—Investigating Disability factors and promoting Environmental Access for Healthy Living Rehabilitation Research and Training Center- R2b: Surveys of Community Members
  • Dr. Min Huang, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, and Dr. Donna Fry, Dean of College of Health Sciences, collaborated with colleagues from the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Franklin Pierce University, and The Boston Home on a study showing that patients with multiple sclerosis may benefit from inspiratory muscle training with potential advantages lasting months after therapy ends. This research was funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In MS, Inspiratory Muscle Training Produces Benefits

Members

Allon Goldberg, PT, PhD
Professor & Associate Dean for Research
Physical Therapy Department, College of Health Sciences

allong@umich.edu
Michigan Research Experts | NIH
My research interests focus on examining relationships among commonly used clinical outcome measures of balance, gait/mobility, strength, fear of falling and falls, in older adults. I also explore the role of genetic factors and their interactions with variables such as lower extremity strength and fear of falling in relation to physical performance capabilities, in older adults.

Reza Amini, PhD, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
Department of Public Health & Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences

dramini@umich.edu
NIH | ResearchGate
My research focuses on the determinants of health and their impact on health and health care/utilization. I seek to investigate the factors associated with health and health care/utilization and then translate the findings to help policymakers develop programs/policies to improve health outcomes both in the U.S. and Iran. I have examined the risk factors of repeated hospitalization among older adults, cognitive function in particular. Currently, collaborating with the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy faculty and students, we investigate the risk factors of fall events among older adults. In the next project, I plan to link the results of this study to hospitalization.

Jennifer Blackwood, PT PhD
Geriatric Clinical Specialist
Associate Professor
Physical Therapy Department, College of Health Sciences

jblackwo@umich.edu
Michigan Research ExpertsGoogle Scholar
My research career has focused on aging research, primarily in the areas of falls and balance with special emphasis into the role that cognitive performance has in fall risk and functional mobility in those with mild deficits in cognitive function, including older cancer survivors. Currently working on projects that include intergenerational living and learning, involving both college students and older adults.

Roxanne Buterakos, DNP, RN, PNP-BC, AG-ACNP-BC
Assistant Professor
School of Nursing

roshelen@umich.edu
I am a nurse practitioner with over 25 years of experience. my specialty is adult gerontology acute care with experience in emergency room, trauma surgery (which includes trauma, general surgery, bariatric surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, burn ICU, neuro-trauma ICU and pediatric ICU) and as a hospitalist. I studied undergraduate nursing at Madonna University, received my MSN from Wayne State University and earned my postgraduate certificate and ENP from Madonna University as well. I am the lead faculty for the adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner specialty track in the DNP program here at U of M Flint. I’ve done much gerontology research  in regard to delirium in the emergency room and in the ICU, I have studied frailty in the geriatric trauma population, and have worked on studies related to geriatrics in skilled nursing facilities. Most of my work impacts the geriatric population and I strive to improve quality of care and quality of life.

Sheryl R. Groden, MSW, PhD
Assistant Professor
Social Work Department, School of Education & Human Services

grodensh@umich.edu
My research has explored the prevalence of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for pain management and stress reduction in older adults, the use of meditation for older adults for stress reduction, as well as  social worker-client communication regarding CAM. Many older adults refuse to seek out mental health treatment because of a cultural stigma to mental illness or a different understanding of mental illness and they seek treatment from non-traditional providers. My research highlights the importance for social workers to better understand medical pluralism and the role CAM plays in our clients’ lives.

Min Hui Huang, PT, PhD
Neurologic Clinical Specialist
Associate Professor
Physical Therapy Department, College of Health Sciences

mhhuang@umich.edu
Google Scholar | ResearchGate
My research interest centers on reducing fall risk and promoting function in the geriatric population. In collaboration with colleagues, I utilize the U.S. population-based datasets obtained from National Cancer Institute to investigate the long-term health outcomes and the impact of personal, environment, and clinical factors on these outcomes in older cancer survivors. My other project examines the feasibility and efficacy of the fall-prevention Otago exercise program using the telehealth model. The project, funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund Community Health Impact Grant, involves home-bound seniors living in Alpena, a rural community in Michigan. Based on the results from a pilot study funded by National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I am developing a telehealth-based trial incorporating respiratory exercises to improve function in older adults with chronic neurologic conditions.

Nathaniel S. Miller, PhD
Associate Professor
Psychology Department, College of Arts & Sciences

natmille@umich.edu
I am an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan-Flint. My research focuses on interventions for Parkinson’s disease. My ongoing work has been investigating the effects of exercise on mitigating Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Currently, I am also collaborating with engineering and computer science faculty to build a mobile application that tracks a range of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Joe Sucic, PhD
Professor
Biology Department, College of Arts & Sciences

jsucic@umich.edu
I am a molecular biologist engaged in two research projects of relevance to the Center on Aging Research Cluster.  One of these projects is a collaborative effort with Dr. Allon Goldberg (Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Physical Therapy, College of Health Sciences, University of Michigan-Flint).  We are examining the relationship between gene variants and physical performance abilities in elderly, community-dwelling adults.  We are considering single nucleotide polymorphism and DNA sequence insertions/deletions present in a number of genes, including those encoding angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and actin 3, and examining if specific genotypes correlate with physical performance phenotypes.   The second project involves examining the expression of genes that drive metastatic cell behavior in the development of malignant tumors.  We are attempting to understand the regulation of a number of genes encoding both proteins and miRNAs that drive metastasis and how the expression of these genes is altered to promote metastatic cell behavior.

Rie Suzuki, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Public Health & Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences

rsuzuki@umich.edu
Google Scholar
My long-term goal is to identify and intervene in the factors associated with health behavior and QOL among adults and those aging with disabilities. As the PI on several grants, I laid the groundwork for the impacts of psycho- and social environments on health behaviors. I am currently examining 1) the environmental factors (e.g., built environment) related to access to care and physical activity and 2) the availability of resources and services to investigate quality of life.

Chad Tiernan, PhD
Assistant Professor
Physical Therapy Department, College of Health Sciences

chadwt@umich.edu
I earned the PhD in Movement Science at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and completed a postdoc in Geriatrics at Wayne State University. My research focuses on multifactorial investigations into self-rated health (SRH), motor behavior, and falls in older adults. I have several ongoing aging-related projects in the areas of balance confidence assessment, SRH, gait variability, and physical activity. I also have expertise in pediatric research and would like to develop future health- and wellness-related projects involving both children and older adults.

Awards

  • Jennifer Blackwood
    American Physical Therapy Association, Academy of Oncologic Physical Therapy 2019 Research Award
  • Min Hui Huang
    Blue Ribbon Award, American Physical Therapy Association Health Policy and Administration Section. Award provided to the most outstanding work in the area of Social Responsibility presented at the Combined Sections Meeting. Given for the poster entitled “Alpena Empowered Movement Program: An Outcomes Study in a Rural Community” by Doubek A, Huang M, Goldberg A, Chung T. February 2020.

    Academy of Oncologic Physical Therapy Research Award. American Physical Therapy Association. Award to recognize those persons whose work has resulted in enduring and outstanding research pertaining to oncologic physical therapy. Given for the research in balance and falls in cancer survivors. 2018.

Publications

  • Amini, R., Kawser, B. (2020): The impact of the interaction between mild and mild-to-moderate cognitive impairment with chronic health problems on hospital admission among community-dwelling older adults. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. doi: 10.1111/ggi.14070 
  • Amini, R., Sahli, M., Ganai, S. (2020): Cigarette smoking and cognitive function among older adults living in the community. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition. doi: 10.1080/13825585.2020.1806199 
  • Blackwood, J., Suzuki, R., & Karczewski, H. (2021 in press). Neighborhood Walkability is Associated with a Recent History of Falls in Urban Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. 
  • Blackwood J, Rybicki K, Huang M. Cognitive measures in older cancer survivors: an examination of validity, reliability, and minimal detectable change. Journal of Geriatric Oncology. 2021;12(1):146-151.
  • Buterakos, R., & Keiser, M. (in press). Implementing a delirium admission protocol in the emergency department. International Journal of Gerontology.
  • Engle, K., Homsi, M., Suzuki, R., Helvie, K., Adler, J., Plonka, C., & Zimmermann, E. (2021). Newly Diagnosed Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: The Relationship Between Perceived Psychological Support, Health-Related Quality of Life, and Disease Activity. Health Equity, 5(1), 42-48.
  • Gore S, Goldberg A, Huang MH, Shoemaker M, Blackwood J. Validity of the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire in older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.,  Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal. 2020; 31 (4), 159-166.
  • Groden, S & Woodward, A.T., Taylor, R.,& Chatters, L.  Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicines for Mental Disorders among Older Adults: differences between pre-boomers and baby-boomers. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2017;25(12):1393-1401.
  • Huang MH. Balance and fall in survivors of cancer. Rehabilitation Oncology. 2021;39(1):4-5.
  • Huang MH, Burnham A, Doyle L, Fry D, Wiske L, Kolanda M, Khitrik E, Goode J, Smith H, Shea K, Houston N. Effects of resistive inspiratory exercise on activity participation, fatigue, and respiratory infections in persons with advanced multiple sclerosis living in a long-term care facility. Journal of Nursing Home Research Sciences. 2020;6:78-81.
  • Miller, N. S., Chou, K. L., Bohnen, N. I., Muller, M. L. T. M. & Seidler, R.D. (2018). Dopaminergic polymorphisms associated with medication responsiveness of gait in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, 48, 54-60.
  • Shuler K, Sucic JF, Talley SA, Goldberg A. Angiotensin-converting enzyme insertion/deletion polymorphism, lower extremity strength, and physical performance in older adults. Physical Therapy. 2019; 99(8): 998-1009.
  • Suzuki, R., McCarthy, M. J., & Ganai, S. (2021 in press). Functional Limitations and Barriers to Care Influence the Likelihood of Adherence to Mammography Guideline. American Journal of Health Behavior.
  • Tiernan, C., Fleishman, H., Hiscox, M., Shaver, S., Stauffer, S., & Thibodeau, P. (2019). Investigating factors related to self-rated health in older adults: A clinical approach using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) model. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 42(2), 86-97.
  • Zhu, N. & Miller, N. S. (2020). Assessment system for Parkinson’s disease tremor and correlation analysis with applied signal processing algorithms. Journal of Engineering and Science in Medical Diagnostics and Therapy, 3(4), 1-8.

Presentations

  • Amini, R. Mild Cognitive Impairment and the likelihood of hospital admission: A longitudinal study. Poster presentation at the American Public Health Association, Annual Meeting. 
  • Amini, R., Ingman, S.R., Swan, J., Tuner, K. (2018). Depressive Symptoms as a mediating factor between External Social Engagement and Health-related Quality of Life. Poster presentation at Healthy Aging Summit.
  • Blackwood J, Amini R, Conti G, Hanses Q, Taylor R, Naimi R, Fayyad D. (2021) Longitudinal Association of Executive Function and Balance in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Paper presented as a poster at Gerontological Society of America 2021 Annual Scientific Meeting Program Workgroup, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
  • Blackwood J, Amini R, Conti G, Hanses Q, Taylor R, Naimi R, Fayyad D. (2021) Association of Executive Function and Postural Stability in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Longitudinal Approach. Paper presented as a poster at the International Conference on Frailty and Sarcopenia Research 2021, Virtual, USA.
  • Blackwood J, Karczewski H, Huang M, Pfalzer L. (2020) Katz activities of daily living disability by age, stage and type of cancer. American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting. 
  • Blackwood J, Rybicki K, Karczewski H, Huang M, Pfalzer L. (2020). Mobility and cognitive measures in older cancer survivors: Examination of reliability and minimal detectable change. American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting. 
  • Carignan, A., Tipp, H., Davis, M., Wu, T., Chou, K., Kotagal, V., Seidler, R. S. & Miller, N. S. (2017). Effectiveness of a Community-Based Bicycling Intervention for Parkinson’s Disease on Motor Symptoms and Quality of Life. Poster presented at the Michigan Physical Therapy Association’s Fall Conference.
  • Cooper, D., Buterakos R., Tith, J., & Lee, S. (2020). Challenges in Post-Hospitalized Transition Care: A Retrospective Chart Review of Nursing Home Residents Diagnosed with Urinary Tract Infection. Poster presentation at 2020 APHA Annual Meeting and Expo.
  • Doubek A, Huang M, Goldberg A, Chung T. (2020) Alpena Empowered Movement Program: A Outcomes Study in a Rural Community. American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting. 
  • Ganai S, Suzuki R, Blackwood J, Webster N. (2020) Walkability and Social Ties in Fall Prevention: Lesson learned in recruitment and retention of older adults in Flint. University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center Symposium.
  • Goldberg A, Sucic JF, Shuler K, Talley SA. (2021). ACE genotype interacts with fear of falling in relation to rapid stepping in older adults. Platform presentation at Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association.
  • Goldberg A, Shuler K, Sucic J.F., Talley S.A. (2018). Associations between lower extremity strength and physical performance in community-dwelling older adults: differences among ACE genotype subgroups. Poster presentation at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association
  • .Gore, S., Blackwood, J., Tiernan, C. (2017). Determinants of functional mobility in older adults. (July 2017). 21st IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics.
  • Groden, S. et al, (2020). Meditation and Older Adults in Flint: A Pilot Study.Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center (HFRCC). 3rdAnnual Research Symposium, Flint, Michigan. Conference canceled due to COVID-19.
  • Groden, S. (2019). Social Worker-Patient Communication Regarding Complementary  and Alternative Medicine.  Poster presented at the Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference.
  • Huang M, Croarkin E, Blackwood J, Hile E, Wampler-Kuhn M, Colon G, Pfalzer L. Oncology Section EDGE Task Force on Cancer: A Systematic Review of Measures of Balance and Falls Risk. (2019) American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting. 
  • Huang M, Blackwood J, Godoshian M, Pfalzer L. (2019) Predicting falls in breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer survivors. American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting.  
  • Lee, J., Turney, I., Amini, R., Katz, B., Ajrouch, K., Antonucci, T. (2020) Relationship Quality and Cognition across Ethnic Groups. Accepted for Symposium by Gerontology Society of America Scientific Annual Meeting. 
  • Suzuki, R., & McCarthy, M. J. (2020). Social and environmental risk factors for isolation among older Americans with physical disabilities. Poster presented at the American Public Health Association.
  • Suzuki, R., Blackwood, J., & Webster, N. (2020). Neighborhood walkability among older adults with and without physical disabilities Poster presented at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting.
  • Tiernan C, Goldberg A. (2021). The original and short versions of the Activities-specific Balance Confidence (ABC) scales in community-dwelling older adults: Clinical implications based on scale agreement, internal consistencies, and associations with self-rated health. Poster at the University of Michigan-Flint’s Center on Aging Symposium: Aging in Flint – Defining Current Concerns.
  • Zhu, N. & Miller, N. S. (2019). Assessment of Parkinson’s disease tremor and correlation analysis with applied signal processing. Paper at The International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition.

Grants

  • Blackwood J. (Principal Investigator)  Predictive Technology Caregiver Engagement and Fall Prevention Platform Pilot Trial. Small Company Innovation Program. 2019.
  • Blackwood J. (Principal Investigator). Perceptions of Neighborhood Walkability, Socialization and Falls in Community Dwelling Older Adults. Summer Undergraduate Research Experience from the C.S. Mott Foundation, The University of Michigan-Flint Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. 2019
  • Blackwood J (Principal Investigator), Suzuki R (Co-Principal Investigator) and Webster N (Co-Principal Investigator). Take a Hike! Aging, walkability and physical function in Flint’s older adults. M-Cubed 3.0. 2019-2021.
  • Buterakos R (Principal Investigator), Cooper D, Lee SY. Accuracy of urinary tract infection (UTI) diagnoses in residents transferred from Emergency Departments (ED)s and back to skilled care facilities. M-Cubed. 2018-2021
  • Groden S (Principal Investigator). Meditation for older adults for stress reduction: A pilot study. Michigan Institute of Clinical and Health Research, University of Michigan. 2019-2020
  • Groden S (Principal Investigator), Blackwood J (co-investigator) and Goldberg A (co-investigator). The University of Michigan-Flint Senior Programming: Intergenerational College Experience (SPICE) Program. 2021
  • Huang MH (Academic Partner), Doubek A, Hepburn A (Community Partners). Alpena Empowered Movement Program. Michigan Health Endowment Fund Community Health Impact Grant. 2020-2021.
  • Huang MH (Principal Investigator), Peethambaran G. Predicting Fall Risk, Perceptions, Circumstances, and Consequences of Falls in Community-Dwelling Older Cancer Survivors: A Pilot Prospective Study. Clinical Research Grant. American Physical Therapy Association Academy of Oncologic Physical Therapy Pilot Grant. 2017-2019.
  • Doubek A, Huang M. (Co-Investigator). Alpena Empowered Movement Program: An outcomes study in a rural community. Michigan Physical Therapy Association Institute of Education and Research Large Research Grant. 2018-2019.
  • Miller NS (Co-Investigator). Using Body Worn Sensors to Measure Movement and Movement Feedback Following Exercise Interventions. Source: University of Michigan (across campuses) Office of Research. 2018-2020
  • Miller NS. (Principal Investigator). Developing a Parkinson’s Disease Care and Research Network within East Michigan Prosperity Region 6. EDA University Center for Community and Economic Development Research Fund at University of Michigan Flint. 2017
  • Maeda (Center PI); Suzuki R. (Project Principal Investigator). R2b Community inquiry. Rehabilitation Research Training Center on Promoting Healthy Aging for Individuals with Long-Term Physical Disabilities.Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living. 2018-2023

Symposia & Seminars

UM-Flint Center on Aging Symposium

On January 14, 2021 the UM-Flint Center on Aging held it’s first event, a 3-hour virtual symposium titled “Aging in Flint-Defining Current Concerns”. In attendance were approximately 80 faculty and students from the Flint campus, as well as from other academic institutions, foundations and agencies. Chancellor Debba Dutta, and Director of the Center, Allon Goldberg (Associate Dean for Research in the College of Health Sciences) provided opening remarks and welcomed attendees. Dean Donna Fry of the College of Health Sciences, moderated a panel discussion with community leaders from local agencies and senior centers, discussing aging concerns in our local community. This was followed by attendees breaking out into smaller groups to discuss topics, including issues related to needs and support for seniors, financial models for affordable senior living, and the role of senior centers in aging in Flint. This allowed for sharing of ideas and networking. The symposium concluded with research posters highlighting faculty and student research on physical and mental health with aging, and miscellaneous topics related to aging such as biology/genetics, nutrition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and balance confidence/falling.

“Cancer, Cognition and Physical Function” by Jennifer Blackwood.

On March 18, 2021 Dr. Jennifer Blackwood, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, gave a 1-hour seminar on Cancer, Cognition and Physical Function. Dr. Blackwood and her collaborators, which include students, have published studies on this topic in peer-reviewed journals and made presentations around the country. Dr. Blackwood’s work shows that cognitive deficits are found in cancer survivors and are associated with changes in gait, balance and falls in older cancer survivors.