Funding for UMass Lowell-City Effort is from Tufts Health Plan Foundation

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Academic space at Riverview Suites.


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LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell was recently awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation to create a citywide, age-friendly initiative that builds community capacity to promote health, independence and quality of life for older residents in Lowell.

The effort is a partnership with the city of Lowell and local organizations that is being led by UMass Lowell’s Sabrina Noel, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences and director for community engagement in the Center for Population Health.

The program is designed to:

  • Provide insight on existing or needed changes to programs, policies and infrastructure within the city of Lowell to support productive and high-quality aging within the community;
  • Increase the ability for individuals of all ages within the city to participate in making their city a community that supports aging in place.

“Our project aims to include the voices of residents, particularly older adults, in the assessment of existing resources, but also in the planning of short- and long-term community-based goals to support health and well-being of older adults,” said Noel, who has been conducting research in partnership with local area communities for nearly a decade on issues including aging, nutrition and chronic conditions, such as osteoporosis and cardiometabolic health outcomes.

In addition to representatives of the city and community partners, other UMass Lowell researchers are co-investigators for this project, including: Michelly Santos of biomedical and nutritional sciences, David Cornell of physical therapy and kinesiology, Andrew Hostetler of psychology, Casey León of public health, Karen Melillo of the Center for Gerontology Research and Partnerships and Robin Toof of the Center for Community Research and Engagement.

Undergraduate and graduate students will also be involved, Noel said, from planning and conducting the community assessment, to collecting and analyzing data, as well as receiving training and experience in community-engaged research.

This grant is one of 13 new community investments totaling $1.7 million by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation in support of collaborative community efforts and systems change to advance healthy aging.

UMass Lowell is collaborating with several local organizations, including the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, the Lowell Council on Aging, the Lowell Housing Authority, Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and D’Youville Life and Wellness to develop the age-friendly initiative in Lowell.

“This partnership between the city of Lowell and UMass Lowell will help ensure we understand and meet the needs of residents of all ages. This grant provides the opportunity for representatives of both partners to bring their expertise and experience together through this new initiative,” said Lowell Mayor John Leahy.

Lowell is a gateway city and home to a large immigrant population, including the nation’s second-largest Cambodian community. The team has worked over the past year to build capacity to conduct a comprehensive citywide assessment that caters to the unique needs of its residents that will focus on nine areas spanning from housing to healthy living to inclusion and access. The assessment will identify areas of priority to inform the development, implementation and evaluation of programs and policies, as well as changes to infrastructure, to promote aging in place. The Age Friendly Lowell initiative is deeply rooted in engaging older adults, drawing on their experiences and insights.

“Our team is committed to working together to ensure that the voices of older adults are echoed throughout all stages of this initiative,” said Noel.

“We have an opportunity to think differently about how our systems are addressing community needs," said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. “We are living in unprecedented times. We need to learn from this experience and think about how we can change the conditions that hold problems in place.”

The Tufts Health Plan Foundation supports the health and wellness of the diverse communities it serves. The foundation has given more than $40 million since 2008 to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island nonprofits that promote healthy living with an emphasis on older adults. The Tufts Health Plan Foundation funds programs that move communities toward implementing age-friendly policies and practices that are relevant, focus on older adults and include them in community solutions.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.