Leslie is a junior majoring in community health with a concentration in Health Education and Promotion. She also works as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and volunteers with the Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center to help children with homework and social skills. Her experience working as a CNA with Alzheimer’s patients has motivated Leslie to seek ways to improve the lives of people living with cognitive impairments. She wants to see nursing homes and long-term care facilities do more to promote exercise and brain activities. She started working with Dr. Susan Aguiñaga earlier this year on the effects of exercise in adult day centers like Circle of Friends Adult Day Center in Champaign, IL. Leslie’s goal is to become a nurse practitioner, working with people living with cognitive impairments.
Leslie has been visiting adult day centers to administer cognitive questionnaires and physical function tests as part of Aguiñaga’s research study, STAND UP: Sitting Time, Activity, aNd Dementia in Underserved Populations. This six-month prospective study tracks physical activity, sedentary behavior, cognition, physical function, and quality of life of older adults who attend adult day centers in Illinois and assesses whether participants engage in the recommended levels of physical activity. The study also examines how different levels of physical activity may influence outcomes. The results of this study will inform whether adult day centers need tailored physical activity programs to meet public health physical activity recommendations.
Adult day centers, like Circle of Friends, provide much-needed assistance to adults living with physical and cognitive impairments so that they can continue to live with their families. In addition to medical monitoring and personal assistance, they provide therapeutic and social activities to adults in their care. By partnering with researchers like Dr. Aguiñaga, these adult day centers have opportunities to learn about and implement evidence-based programming to improve the mental and physical health of their residents. Kathy Rhoads, Director of Circle of Friends, shares that study participants really enjoyed the added physical activity. More importantly, she notes, they would not have received feedback on their mobility without this partnership.
In working on this project, Leslie gained an understanding of the responsibilities and the impact researchers can have in partnering with community members and organizations. She was also impressed by the larger social impact community-based research can have. “It really opened my eyes to how important community-based research is for our society. Our findings can make a really big difference in industries such as medicine, law, and business. It can be very beneficial to our society and help people live longer and healthier lives.”