Helping older adults remain active

Vicki Mercer, associate professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, created a falls-prevention program, called CHAMP (Community Health and Mobility Partnership), to help older adults and individuals with disabilities remain as active and independent as possible.

The CHAMP program works with community partners, including senior centers, hospitals, physical therapy clinics, universities and community colleges in McDowell, Caldwell and Watauga counties in western North Carolina.

Mercer has been involved with clinical practice in physical therapy for most of her career. Working with older adult patients, who are worried about falling and other mobility concerns, inspired her to create this initiative.

“This fear [of falling] causes [some older adults] to restrict their activities, and can lead to a downward spiral of decreased activity, worsening strength and balance, increased risk of falling and greater activity restriction,” Mercer said.

She added that this fear not only restricts activities, but has negative consequences for overall health and quality of life. “I am passionate about trying to help older adults remain as active and independent as possible throughout their lives, helping them to really ‘live’ as long as they are living.”

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Mercer is a member of the fifth class of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars, a program created by private gifts and named for former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp. The program brings together selected faculty from across campus to engage in a two-year experiential, competency-based curriculum designed to advance their engaged scholarship.

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