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Home About Us Press Room Archived Press Releases 2013 Press Releases Posture Provides Clue for Future Disability

For Immediate Release
April 8, 2013

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

Posture Provides Clue for Future Disability

The shape of an individual’s spinal column may predict his or her risk for nursing home admission or need of home assistance in old age, according to a new article published online in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

A team of researchers based in Japan discovered that the trunk angle of inclination — the angle between the true vertical and a straight line from the first thoracic vertebra to the first sacral vertebra (view image) — is associated with becoming dependent on help for activities of daily living (ADL). These activities include such basic self-care tasks as bathing, feeding, toileting, maintaining continence, dressing, and transferring in or out of a bed or chair.

“Spinal posture changes with age, but accumulated evidence shows that good spinal posture is important in allowed the aged to maintain independent lives,” the authors state. 

The research team’s data were sourced from 804 participants in the Kurabuchi Study, a community-based prospective cohort study of residents aged 65 years or older in Kurabuchi Town, approximately 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Tokyo.

The test subjects’ spinal posture was measured with a spinal mouse, which is a computer-assisted noninvasive device for measuring spinal shape. The device is guided along the midline of the spine, starting at the spinous process and finishing at the top of the anal crease.

Of the four spinal measurements taken by the device, only trunk angle of inclination was associated with future dependence in ADL — defined by the researchers as either admission to a nursing home or need of home assistance after a 4.5 year follow-up period. At that time, 15.7 percent became dependent in ADL, 7.6 percent died, and 0.7 percent moved out of the town. The group was 58 percent female.

The subjects in the highest quartiles, who had the greatest angle of spinal inclination, were 3.47 times more likely to  become dependent in ADL than those in the lowest quartiles (the group with the least spinal inclination), even after adjusting covariates such as age, sex, back pain, and stiffness.

The authors’ research was supported by a grant in aid from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. The article in which their work appeared is titled “Spinal Posture in the Sagittal Plane Is Associated with Future Dependence in Activities of Daily Living: A Community-Based Cohort Study of Older Adults in Japan.”

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The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences is a refereed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,400+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Click here for a printable PDF version of this press release.

Mildred M. Seltzer Distinguished Service Recognition

Presented to C. Joanne Grabinski, PhD, Eastern Michigan University, and Mary Alice Wolf, PhD, Saint Joseph University.

This award honors colleagues who are near retirement or recently retired. Recipients are individuals who have been actively involved in AGHE through service on committees, as elected officers, and/or have provided leadership in one of AGHE’s grant-funded projects.

Administrative Leadership Award

Presented to Tammy M. Bray, PhD, Oregon State University

This award honors administrators on AGHE member campuses who have made exceptional efforts in support of gerontology or geriatrics education.

David A. Peterson Gerontology & Geriatrics Education Best Paper of the Volume Award

Presented to Nina M. Silverstein, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston; Elizabeth Johns, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Judith A. Griffin, MA, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the article “Students Explore Livable Communities.” Honorable mention is given to Emily J. Robbins, MS, Miami University; Jennifer M. Kinney, PhD, Miami University; and Cary S. Kart, PhD, Miami University, for the article “Promoting Active Engagement in Health Research: Lessons Learned from an Undergraduate Gerontology Capstone Course.”

The purpose of this award is to recognize excellence in scholarship in academic gerontology in AGHE’s official journal, Gerontology & Geriatrics Education.

Graduate Student Paper Award

Presented to Deborah Gray, MBA, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the paper “Weight and Wealth: The Relationship between Obesity and Net Worth for Pre-Retirement Age Men and Women.”

This award acknowledges excellence in scholarly work conducted by an AGHE Annual Meeting student attendee.

Book Award for Best Children’s Literature on Aging

Presented to Caitlin Dale Nicholson and Leona Morinn-Nelson for “Niwechihaw/I help” in the primary reader (pre-K to 2nd grade) category, and Ann Grifalconi and Jerry Pickney for “Ain’t Nobody A Stranger to Me” in the elementary reader (3rd to 5th grade) category.

This award recognizes portrayals of meaningful aging in children’s literature.