Impact of Participation in a Wellness Program on Functional Status and Falls Among Aging Adults in an Assisted Living Setting

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Physical Therapy


Problem: Aging adults residing in assisted living facilities are vulnerable to the effects of cumulative chronic illness and increasingly sedentary lifestyle, both contributing to risk of functional decline over time. Participation in regular exercise appears to preserve functional status and may minimize the rate of functional decline.

Purpose: This quasi-experimental study evaluated the longitudinal impact of regular participation in a wellness exercise program on functional status of residents in assisted living.

Methods: Thirty-six aging adults participating in a multimodal wellness program were evaluated on enrollment and after 12 months of participation. Cognitive status (Mini-Mental State Examination score), postural control/fall risk (Berg Balance Scale score), and cardiovascular endurance/mobility (6-Minute Walk Test distance) were examined on enrollment and at annual reassessment. Falls over 12 months were determined by tracking annual reported incidence of falls. Subjects were classified as “regular” or “nonregular” exercisers on the basis of participation frequency and adherence. Chi-square analysis and analysis of variance were used to screen for initial differences between groups. Repeated-measures analysis of variance evaluated differences in cognitive status, falls, and functional measures between groups at annual reassessment.

Results: Mean age (SD) of participants was 85.5 (6.3) years (range = 72–96 years). There were no differences between groups at the time of enrollment. At annual reassessment, regular exercisers demonstrated better preservation of functional status and a lower rate of falling than nonregular exercisers.

Conclusion: Regular participation in an individualized wellness program as little as twice weekly for 9 of 12 months provides protection against functional decline and risk of falls in older adults in assisted living settings.




Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy