PSU students research fighting dementia with fitness - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

PSU students research fighting dementia with fitness

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It's workout time for Fred Lamora at the Third Age Day Center in Plattsburgh.

"If I were to sit in this chair day in and day out, six months from now they would be putting me in the ground," Lamora said.

The 90-year-old suffers from dementia. That's why he remains active at the day program center, which is part of the Northeastern New York Alzheimer's Disease Assistance Center. This one hour workout is part of a three-month study being conducted by SUNY Plattsburgh students Alanna Darling and Azaliah Tautfest.

"Testing to see if the cognitive function of elderly people with dementia or other problems like that can be improved through exercises," said Tautfest, a nursing major.

The experimental group consists of 20 people suffering from some form of dementia not related to a head injury. All are over the age of 55. Darling focuses on the workout portion of the study, exercising different parts of the body to see if it will help them with their memory.

"Dementia decreases their mental state, so when I add in the exercises it will help their physical ability, which will help with their mental state, which will help them remember how to do things," said Darling, a fitness and wellness major.

At the conclusion of the exercise session, Tautfest checks the vitals of the participants based on what she has learned in her nursing classes.

"Vitals play a really big part because the blood flows through the brain. The more you exercise, the better blood you are going to have to certain parts of the body. Even to the GI track where they'll be able to digest their food better, they'll be able to get better nutrition from their food, the blood flow to the brain will enhance their cognitive thinking," Tautfest said.

One of the reasons for the study-- Darling held a similar exercise session with visitors at the center last spring and noticed immediate attitude changes.

"That their attitude, their mood was changed in a positive way, they weren't agitated anymore, they wanted to participate in activities and they wanted to socialize," Darling said.

"If we can make an improvement with this, then maybe we can go into nursing homes around the area and say this is the improvement we have seen with doing this program and maybe help them setup a program that they can do," Tautfest said.

It's results this lifelong farmer hopes to see, especially so he can continue his weekly tradition.

"I'm lucky at 90 to be in my shape," Lamora said. "I still go to square dancing."

Two young students hoping to make a difference.

The study is being paid for through the Chapel Hill Fellowship. It provides funding to help students research issues surrounding aging. Each student received about $9,500 for the study.

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