New RRTC to focus on Promoting Healthy Aging of People with Long-term Physical Disabilities

Dr. Ivan Molton was recently awarded a new Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (RRTC) for Promoting Healthy Aging of People with Long-term Physical Disabilities or “Healthy Aging RRTC” for short.  The Healthy Aging RRTC, funded by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), is a continuation of Mark Jensen’s RRTC on Aging with a Physical Disability (2008 - 2013). The new Healthy Aging RRTC, led by Dr. Molton, managed by Aimee Verrall, MPH, and coordinated by Amanda Smith, BS, will continue to work with people aging with multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy (MD), post-polio syndrome (PPS), and spinal cord injury (SCI). The “R” in RRTC is for Research and we will conduct 4 studies over the 5 year grant:

  1. A Longitudinal Survey led by Mark Jensen, PhD and carried out at the University of Washington’s Center for Outcomes Research in Rehabilitation (UWCORR) in collaboration with Dagmar Amtmann, PhD and her team of research staff who contribute their measurement expertise. We will examine secondary health conditions, such as pain or fatigue, with age in people with MS, MD, PPS, and SCI. In addition, we will investigate environmental and individual barriers to general health care as well as rehabilitation care.
  2. Adapting Project Enhance led by Ivan Molton, PhD is an evidence-based, participant-centered motivational intervention for older adults. For Project Enhance a wellness coach, typically a nurse or social worker, works with people to improve their health and wellness. In older adults, research has shown that participants in Project Enhance decrease the length of hospital stays, lower their use of psychoactive drugs, alleviate symptoms of mood disorders, and develop a sense of greater self-efficacy. Our study will adapt Project Enhance for people aging with a long-term physical disability. We will embark on this study collaboratively and in the community with our partners at Senior Services of King County ( Of note, Project Enhance was originally developed at the University of Washington at the Health Promotion Research Center (
  3. Developing a Resilience Intervention for middle-aged people with MS. Led by Dawn Ehde, PhD and Kevin Alschuler, PhD, we will use mixed-methods (both qualitative and quantitative) and pilot test the new intervention in the community working with the Greater Northwest Chapter of the National MS Society as well as UW Medicine’s MS Center.
  4. Survey of Managed Care, we will partner with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Tamar Heller, PhD, who heads UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development and is well known for her work in disability and health policy. This study will look at the impact of managed care programs in people aging with a long-term physical disability utilizing an existing longitudinal survey with both retrospective and prospective data collection.

The “T” in RRTC is all about Training and we will continue to translate what we learn through our research into meaningful products for individuals with MS, MD, PPS, SCI, and their friends and family, stakeholders, and policy makers both in the world of disability and in aging. Kurt Johnson, PhD and Kathy Yorkston, PhD.