North Florida / South Georgia Veterans Health System
VOL.2 *SPECIAL ISSUE SUMMER
Claude Pepper, living a legacy
he National Institutes of Health has awarded
University of Florida's Institute on Aging a Claude
D. Pepper Older American's Independence Center.
With the grant, named in honor of the former senator, UF's
IOA hasjoined the ranks of the most prestigious centers of
aging research and education in the nation.
U.S. Senator Claude Denson Pepper was known in his
lifetime as a spokesperson for older citizens. Not only was
he a recognized advocate of the elderly, Pepper embodied
vital, successful aging. In the Pepper Older American's
Independence Centers, his legacy lives on.
Pepper, politician, philanthropist and champion of the
elderly, was born in rural Alabama in 1900. He lived an
active life. After
schools and working
in a steel mill, Claude
D. Pepper graduated
from the University a.
of Alabama and
Harvard Law School, a usA
then taught law at 33
the University of
he moved to Perry,
Florida, in 1925 to set
up practice. In 1929
he served two years
in the Florida State House of Representatives, was elected to
the U.S. Senate until 1951, and served in the U.S. House of
Representatives from 1962 until his death in 1989.
Claude Denton Pepper's legacy, however, was forever
established when he became chair of the new House Select
Committee on Aging in 1977, and emerged as the nation's
foremost advocate for the elderly.
lorida has the
of persons age 60 years
or older in the nation
and this age group also
represents the fastest
growing segment of the
it is critical that we as Marco Pahor, M.D.
the Institute on Aging
address the health concerns of this portion of
our population. In this spirit, we are proud to
announce that we have received funding from
the National Institute on Aging to establish
the Claude D. Pepper Older American's
Independence Center (OAIC). The mission of the
UF OAIC is (1) to assess the risk factors and better
understand the biological reasons for physical
disability in older adults, (2) to develop and test
effective prevention and rehabilitation therapies,
and (3) to educate and train new investigators in
research on aging and disability, while developing
their leadership qualities and roles.
Our center's research theme is ". ..1 in,
prevention and rehabilitation of disability." This
issue of Changing Seasons will explain what
sarcopenia is and how combating this health
issue will lead to greater independence in older
At our center, we have assembled an
outstanding and diverse team of investigators to
accomplish this goal and we will highlight some
of them and their research programs in this
continued on page 3
A major goal of the Institute on
Aging and the Older Amer-
can's Independence Center
is to help develop treatments in the
elderly population for combating sar-
copenia. Sarcopenia, from the Greek
meaning "- ... rty of flesh," is the loss
of skeletal muscle mass and strength
during the aging process.
Muscle weakening is linked to
poor balance, walking speed, falls
and fractures. Therefore, it is of great
importance that people 55 and over
maintain muscle mass and strength
in order to function and live indepen-
dently. Scientists at the UF Institute
on Aging's Pepper Center are taking
many different approaches to tackling
the issue. Two are highlighted here.
Weight loss and muscle strength
Elderly people who experience a
combination of weight gain and
muscle loss are often stuck in a vi-
cious cycle that can lead to inactivity,
increasing immobility disease and
Michael Perri, Ph.D., associate
director of the UF Institute on Aging
and a professor in the College of Pub-
lic Health and Health Professions, has
been awarded an opportunity grant
by the University of Florida to study
the interaction of behavior and body
chemistry that leads to weight gain,
muscle loss and obesity-related dis-
eases, and to develop a lifestyle inter-
vention to help people stay active and
healthy longer. The six-month study
will lay the groundwork for a future
randomized clinical trial.
In the United
States, the occur-
rence of obesity
varies by age,
race, and sex; the
lence is observed
in older, black
women. For that
is testing a weight loss and exercise
lifestyle intervention, which includes
eating 500 to 1000 fewer calories a
day in combination with moderate
exercise, in a population of 20 obese,
sedentary African-American women
who have difficulty getting around
and completing everyday activities.
"The study is assessing if changes
occur in body composition and how
strong an impact that has on physi-
cal function and performance," Perri
said. N-.\; would like to see if weight
loss can decrease inflammation and
slow down the cell death that weakens
Low-impact exercise and
maintaining muscle strength
Beverly Roberts, Ph.D., a professor
and researcher with the Institute on
Aging and the UF College of N, -,1 I _.
became interested in the effects of tai
chi on elders' balance and strength.
Through the support of the Pepper
Center and a University of Florida
opportunity grant, Roberts is testing
tai chi as a possible exercise interven-
tion for inactive elderly people.
As she re-
that even walking
was too difficult
for some inac-
tive elderly. She
developed a test that assesses muscle
strength, balance and disability mobil-
ity using a low-impact form of tai chi.
Her 45 study participants take
slow steps, make slow movements and
keep both feet on the ground as they
perform tai chi. Over the course of
the study Roberts will assess partici-
pants' ability to perform daily activi-
ties and their physical and psychologi-
cal health. A second group which acts
as a control, maintain their normal
activity during this period.
"Participants in the tested group
have commented that they are more
relaxed and less stiff since beginning
the sessions," Roberts said. "Some peo-
ple have said they are able to do more.
All seem to like it and have seemed
to be getting some benefit. These are
people who, for the most part, have
trouble walking. That they start think-
ing that this is something they feel they
can do is an amazing change." #
Claude Pepper continued from page 1
In 1!'. .., he established The Claude Pepper
Foundation to preserve and make available his
vast collection of papers, images, recordings, and
memorabilia. As a key participant in shaping extensive,
momentous public policy, Senator Pepper understood
his collection's educational potential and historical
The goals of the foundation are based upon the
principles by which Claude and his wife, Mildred, lived.
Over the years, the foundation has developed extensive
programs to further the causes he championed throughout
his political career, including those dedicated to meeting
the needs and maximizing the potential of all people,
especially the elderly.
In Claude Pepper's eulogy on the House Floor,
Florida Congressman Bill Young said, "Claude was the
friend of millions of Americans, most of whom never
met him in person. They were his friends because they
believed in him and recognized that he was fighting to
make their way of life a little bit better."
Now through their work in geriatrics patient care,
research and education, scientists at UF's Institute of
Aging work to carry on Claude D. Pepper's legacy of
helping people live stronger longer. ?
With exercise, elders can
With a prescription of regular
structured exercise, sedentary
elderly are able to safely
improve their physical function and may
reduce the likelihood they will experience
difficulty walking a quarter mile,
according to findings from a multicenter
pilot study led by the University of
Florida Institute on Aging.
UF researchers announced the results
of their Lifestyle Interventions and
Independence For Elders pilot, or LIFE,
at the Gerontological Society of America's
annual meeting in Dallas. The research was also published in the
November issue of the Journal of Gerontology.
The findings confirm the feasibility of a full-scale clinical trial using
physical activity in older people, said Marco Pahor, director of the UF
Institute on Aging and the study's principal investigator.
"This pilot demonstrates that the physical activity was extremely safe
for the study participants -elderly people at a high risk of becoming
disabled," Pahor said.
The LIFE study was conducted at four centers -the Cooper
Institute, Stanford University, the University of Pittsburgh and Wake
Forest University -and was funded by the National Institute on Aging.
The coordinating center was based at UF and the data management
center was based at Wake Forest University.
The pilot study was the first to gather evidence that physical activity
can improve the score on a standardized test of lower extremity
physical mobility called the Short Physical Performance Battery, or
SPPB, the researchers said.
"\\. have shown a 29 percent reduction of incapacity to walk. That is
highly promising for the success of the full-scale study," Pahor said. f
Legacy of giving
With the new Pepper Center
awarded by the National
Institute on Aging, the
University of Florida becomes a
nationally recognized leader in research,
education and patient care, particularly
relating to increasing the likelihood for
independence in daily living for us as we
The IOA needs partners who are
committed to joining the effort to ensure
that good health and independence are
more likely to happen for us all as we
age. Your support of aging research
and education at UF will educate future
health-care providers in how to care
for older persons, support our world-
class faculty in cutting-edge research,
and create a legacy for UF to remain a
leader in providing a healthier tomorrow
for us all.
Please contact Troy Munn, director
of development, at (352) 265-7227 or
email@example.com, if you would like
more information about how you can
help. You can also give online at
George J. Caranasos, M.D.
University of Florida
Q: What exactly is "independent living" and how do
I achieve it?
A: We Americans, especially Baby Boomers, are an
independent lot! We want to be in charge of our lives.
This desire for independence not only stays with us, but it
frequently grows stronger as we age.
Independence means two things: maintaining function
(doing things for ourselves) and making our own decisions
Maintaining physical function requires activity. A pro-
gram of exercise or physical activity, such as walking, gar-
,1 !i_. il. 1!. .i_. etc., is crucial. There are even programs
for persons with arthritis or other medical problems.
Autonomy requires an active mind. Remain socially
active with relatives, friends and social groups. Take up a
l i I IIII
Marco Pahor, IOA Director
challenging new mental activity, such as learning how to
use a computer. Don't allow yourself to become blue or
depressed -socializing and physical activity can help you
feel better; but if sadness becomes severe, tell your doctor
-depression is eminently treatable.
Avoiding injury is crucial in maintaining independence.
Decreasing muscle strength increases the likelihood of
falls, the main cause of injury. The most destructive in-
jury is a hip fracture, which can lead to dependency and
institutionalization. Look around. Make sure your home is
safe. Is there sufficient lighting? Are extension cords out of
the way? Is furniture or throw rugs located in pathways?
Support, including emotional support and help with
chores, is an integral part of independence. An active
social life will help assure emotional support. When neces-
sary, get help from relatives and friends in doing chores,
hire others to mow the lawn, and use agencies to assure
one's independence. Contrary to belief, calling on others
in appropriate circumstances is an important aspect of
So, keep physically and mentally active, make your sur-
roundings safe, keep socially active and call on the help of
others to maintain your independence. f
G '' For more information about giving,
I| | go online to www.aging.ufl.edu.
t Institute on
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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