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SUNY Plattsburgh Students to Explore the Effects of Exercise on Elderly Dementia Patients

SUNY Plattsburgh students Alanna Darling and Azaliah Tautfest are about to embark on a year-long study to investigate affects of exercise on the cognitive awareness of dementia patients aged 55 and older.

The two are this year’s recipients of the Chapel Hill Fellowship, a funding opportunity that helps students pursue an in-depth study of issues relating to the challenges of an aging society.

To gather research, Darling and Tautfest have designed a trial involving a control group and an experimental group from the Third Age Adult Day Center, part of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center.

Darling, a fitness and wellness leadership major who is minoring in both business and marketing, will plan and administer physical activities for participants in the experimental group. Meanwhile, Tautfest, a nursing major and psychology minor, will measure the physiological responses of the participants in both groups.

Their hope is “to change the lives of the elderly with this project by improving longevity and happiness,” Darling said.

“I decided to apply for the fellowship because I saw it as an opportunity to take action. While in school, I learn and absorb so much information, all to be applied later — to make a difference later. The fellowship excited me because I saw it as my opportunity to make a difference now,” Tautfest said.

Both Darling and Tautfest said that Dr. Taher Zandi, a SUNY distinguished service professor of psychology who will serve as the faculty adviser for the project, played a part in their decision to apply for the fellowship.

Darling met Zandi when she was directing some exercise activities at Third Age as part of her major. Upon seeing her in action, Zandi suggested that her background and exercise planning and training made her a strong candidate for the fellowship.

Tautfest said that she was overwhelmed with ideas for proposals for the fellowship, but, in the end, Zandi's guidance led to the idea for the study.

Zandi said that he is impressed with Darling and Tautfest for securing the funding for their project.

“They will bring a wealth of information from their respective areas of study and learn together in completing the project,” he said. “They will learn from each other in a true interdisciplinary format as they collaborate on understanding the role of physical exercise in maintaining cognitive function for older adults who suffer from dementia disorders.”

“I am very excited and looking forward to working with Alanna and Azaliah for the next two semesters,” Zandi said.

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