In Japan, the proportion of elderly people was 20.05% in 2005 and is predicted to increase to more than 30% by 2025. This rapid increase in the proportion of elderly people affected with diseases or disabilities is a serious concern in Japan. Therefore, the promotion of health programs is considered important for improving activities of daily living and quality of life; furthermore, an interdisciplinary approach is required in the field of medicine or human welfare. However, there have been limited studies regarding interdisciplinary health-promotion programs in Japan. The aim of our study is to assess the usefulness of an interdisciplinary health-promotion program for disabled elderly people.
This health promotion program was conducted at Kio University. The participants were 10 community-dwelling, disabled elderly people (7 with cerebral vascular accidents, 1 with multiple neuropathies, 1 with Parkinson’s disease, and 1 with a lumbar compression fracture). Each intervention period in the health promotion program was 3 months long and involved 5 participants. Intervention sessions were conducted twice a week, and each was 2 hr long. This program mainly comprised physical training, including aerobics and muscle-strengthening and balance-improvement exercises, conducted by physical therapists and nutrition counseling administered by nationally registered dietitians. In this study, we assessed the physical ability and body composition of the participants. They performed the timed up-and-go test, the functional reach test, the sit-to-stand test and gripping-power measurements to assess the physical ability. As body-composition indicators, we measured the bone density, body-fat percentage, body mass index (BMI), and skeletal-muscle percentage of the participants during the second intervention period. Basal metabolism was also measured.
The results of the physical examinations revealed no significant differences among the participants, except in the sit-to-stand test. However, physical ability improved in almost all the participants. Among the body-composition parameters, body-fat percentage increased significantly. BMI increased significantly in all participants, except for 1 in whom it remained normal. Bone density increased slightly in all the participants; however, this increase was not significant, and the bone density recorded for all the participants was less than normal. Skeletal-muscle percentage decreased slightly, and minimal changes were recorded in basal metabolism.
In this study, no significant changes were observed in either physical ability or body composition of the participants. Thus, many issues remain to be resolved to improve this project. Since the sample size used in the current study was small, further ongoing research involving larger sample sizes is required. Further, it is necessary to determine whether the duration of the intervention period in this program is appropriate to significantly benefit the participants. In addition, other steps and procedures should be considered to further develop this program. Regardless of these issues, interdisciplinary health-promotion programs are increasing in importance because it is difficult to provide long-term rehabilitation services at medical facilities in Japan. This program is funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan.