Active aging - resilience and external support as modifiers of the disablement outcome: AGNES cohort study protocol

BMC Public Health. 2018 May 2;18(1):565. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5487-5.


Background: Population aging increases the need for knowledge on positive aspects of aging, and contributions of older people to their own wellbeing and that of others. We defined active aging as an individual's striving for elements of wellbeing with activities as per their goals, abilities and opportunities. This study examines associations of health, health behaviors, health literacy and functional abilities, environmental and social support with active aging and wellbeing. We will develop and validate assessment methods for physical activity and physical resilience suitable for research on older people, and examine their associations with active aging and wellbeing. We will examine cohort effects on functional phenotypes underlying active aging and disability.

Methods: For this population-based study, we plan to recruit 1000 participants aged 75, 80 or 85 years living in central Finland, by drawing personal details from the population register. Participants are interviewed on active aging, wellbeing, disability, environmental and social support, mobility, health behavior and health literacy. Physical activity and heart rate are monitored for 7 days with wearable sensors. Functional tests include hearing, vision, muscle strength, reaction time, exercise tolerance, mobility, and cognitive performance. Clinical examination by a nurse and physician includes an electrocardiogram, tests of blood pressure, orthostatic regulation, arterial stiffness, and lung function, as well as a review of chronic and acute conditions and prescribed medications. C-reactive protein, small blood count, cholesterol and vitamin D are analyzed from blood samples. Associations of factors potentially underlying active aging and wellbeing will be studied using multivariate methods. Cohort effects will be studied by comparing test results of physical and cognitive functioning with results of a cohort examined in 1989-90.

Conclusions: The current study will renew research on positive gerontology through the novel approach to active aging and by suggesting new biomarkers of resilience and active aging. Therefore, high interdisciplinary impact is expected. This cross-sectional study will not provide knowledge on temporal order of events or causality, but an innovative cross-sectional dataset provides opportunities for emergence of novel creative hypotheses and theories.

Keywords: Activity; Aging; Cohort; Disability; Environment; Exercise; Functioning; Lower extremity; Mobility; Wellbeing.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Literacy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Support*