UB researcher aims to get older adults moving and creating

Elderly woman active in leisure time painting a picture.

Health Foundation awards Jacobs School faculty member grant for project to test art and exercise program

Release Date: January 22, 2020

“These two complementary therapies have been brought together in this project with a focus on engaging the brain and body, promoting social support, and creating an enjoyable experience for participants. ”
Nikhil Satchidanand, research assistant professor of medicine
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. ­– Nikhil Satchidanand, PhD, a research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, has been awarded a grant from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York to continue his work with vulnerable older adults.

Satchidanand, an exercise physiologist with expertise in motor development and aging, will use the $71,690 grant for a project called “The Movers and Makers Club: A Community-based Recreation Program to Improve Cognition and Motor Function in Older Adults.”

The project will develop and test the impact of a community-based art-making and thinking-while-moving (dual-task) exercise intervention on cognition and motor function in adults age 65 and older.

As a faculty member with the UB Center for Successful Aging, Satchidanand has partnered with  the Ken-Ton Family YMCA, which runs several fitness programs and special events for older adults, and Fine Art Miracles, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of community members through fine arts education and hands-on art making.

The project is divided into three phases:

  • Phase 1, which began in October and runs through February, is focused on development of the intervention program with input from key stakeholders.
  • Phase 2, running from February through December 2020, will involve testing the intervention methods in a community-based, randomized controlled trial among adults 65 years or older.
  • Phase 3, running from January through March 2021, will allow time to refine the intervention methods, disseminate key findings, and prepare for larger-scale implementation in other community-based sites in the region.  

“The development of this project involves creation of an art-making curriculum that utilizes a wide variety of media, techniques and content,” Satchidanand said.

“Direct, ongoing feedback from community stakeholders through a series of focus groups will help us create a curriculum that is appealing and appropriate for participants. Trained instructors will work with our community members to create a highly immersive and engaging experience that promotes success, self-efficacy and a sense of accomplishment.”

At the same time, a group of older adults will work with the team to develop the dual-task training program using the SMARTfit Cognitive-Motor Training System, an innovative, multisensory exergaming platform that engages the brain and body using game technology. Participants interact with touch-sensitive targets to play cognitively stimulating games while moving, managing footwork, maintaining balance and building body awareness.       

“These two complementary therapies have been brought together in this project with a focus on engaging the brain and body, promoting social support, and creating an enjoyable experience for participants,” Satchidanand said.

Project participants will engage in weekly art-making and dual-task exercise training, instructed by trained professionals from Fine Art Miracles and the YMCA. “We hypothesize that weekly art-making and dual-task exercise training will improve executive functions, visual-spatial abilities and motor function,” he said.

“Equally as important, we believe that participation in Movers and Makers will be associated with improved self-efficacy, social support and quality of life. The results of our study will help us refine and adapt the intervention to be delivered in other community organizations.”

Satchidanand received a previous Health Foundation grant for his “Falls Prevention Needs Assessment in Primary Care” project. His experiences working on that project partly inspired the new project, he said.

“The Movers and Makers project was made possible by a team that continues to demonstrate their passion and commitment to promoting successful aging,” Satchidanand said. “I am very excited to deepen my work with the foundation and to continue my collaboration with this exceptional team. 

“Our intervention has the potential to improve functional outcomes and help maintain independence in aging, while promoting social support and enjoyment. I am eager to realize the potential of the Movers and Makers program and ensure our older adult community members live healthier, happier lives,” he said.

Satchidanand earned an MS in motor development and a PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh. He completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in clinical research in health disparities and was a UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) KL2 Mentored Career Development Award Scholar from 2016 to 2018.

Media Contact Information

Barbara Branning
Media Relations
Tel: 716-645-6969