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Physical activity in older adults with sensory impairment

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  • Full or part time
    Dr T Gorely
    Dr A Smith
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The health benefits of participating in regular physical activity (PA) are well established. However, many people, especially older adults, are insufficiently active to gain these benefits1, and levels are even lower among those with some form of disability, such as sensory impairment (SI). For this purpose, SI refers to visual and/or hearing impairment only.

SI is one of the most common long-term conditions of later life. Research shows that any degree of SI may impact an individual’s functional ability, can interfere with the ability to carry out activities of daily living, and reduces quality of life2. Data on PA participation in older adults with SI is very limited but a concerning picture emerges from the following: (i) the population is aging, (ii) the prevalence of SI increases with age, and (iii) the low levels of PA in older adults and among those with disability3.

Given the many benefits of PA there is a need to develop innovative interventions to encourage activity in this group. However, to design effective interventions it is necessary to first understand the influences (correlates) on the behaviour but the evidence base in PA and SI is weak. Therefore, the aims of this proposed PhD are to (1) explore the correlates of PA in older adults with SI and (2) co-produce with adults with SI an intervention to promote PA. The student will:
1. Explore how older adults with SI move within real world environments and explore the physical (e.g., gait), psychological (e.g., fear of falling), cognitive (e.g., cognitive function) and environmental (e.g., light) correlates of PA.
2. Conduct a systematic review of PA interventions/programmes in older adults with SI.
3. Use these results to inform the co-production of innovative intervention strategies for increasing PA in those with SI.

The student will be supervised by a team of experienced academics with different expertise: Dr Trish Gorely (UHI, Physical Activity, Intervention design and evaluation), Dr Rachel Crockett (University of Stirling, older adults, falls prevention), Dr Annetta Smith (UHI, sensory impairment, older adults) and Dr Sarah-Ann Munoz (UHI, health geography, co-production and participatory research).

Application Process


The project is expected to start on 1 May 2018 (negotiable).

Applicants must possess a minimum of an Honours degree at 2:1 and/or a Master’s Degree (or International equivalent) in a relevant subject.

To apply please complete the standard application form, attaching supporting documentation and send to: [Email Address Removed]

Informal project specific enquiries can be made to: Dr Trish Gorely (01463 279 811, [Email Address Removed])

Deadline: Tuesday 17 April 2018 at 5PM (UK time)

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

The studentship covers fees at the Home/EU rate only, plus a stipend at the RCUK level, for a total of 42 months (including writing-up).
Funding is available for students worldwide, however non UK/EU students will be liable for the difference between home/EU and international fees.

Students must be domiciled in the Highlands and Islands transition region during the course of their study to be eligible for funding.

Related Subjects


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