School of Kinesiology Faculty Selected for 2023 ORIEI Funding Award to Address Fall Prevention in Older Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

January 11, 2024

Tiphanie Raffegeau

Tiphanie Raffegeau, Assistant Professor in the Kinesiology program within the School of Kinesiology at George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), has been named the recipient of a seed funding opportunity announced early last year by Mason’s Office of Research Innovation and Economic Impact (ORIEI), Her research proposal, Creating a Mason-based interdisciplinary community-academic partnership for fall-prevention in older adults, was among nine applications that were selected for the newly created ORIEI Seed Funding Initiative out of a total of 51 submissions vying for funding. Applications went through a rigorous external review process conducted by a panel of 60 experts.

Raffegeau’s application was considered under the ORIEI category titled “Building the Foundation” described as research conducted by an early-stage researcher that supports innovative ideas, fosters collaboration, strengthens undergraduate and graduate student learning experiences, and affords opportunities for future external funding.

The research proposal developed by Raffegeau consists of a multidisciplinary collaboration between CEHD and Mason’s College of Public Health. As Principle Investigator (PI) of this project, Raffegeau has assembled a team of Co-Investigators with expertise in kinesiology, biomechanics, athletic training, and social work. Her team members include:

Jatin Ambegaonkar

  • Jatin Ambegaonkar, Associate Dean for Research in the Office of Research Development within CEHD and Professor in the Athletic Training Education program in Mason’s School of Kinesiology;
  • Debra A. Stroiney, Associate Professor and Academic Program Coordinator (graduate) of the Kinesiology program in Mason’s School of Kinesiology;
  • Emily S. Ihara, Professor, and Chair of the Department of Social Work within Mason’s College of Public Health; and,
  • Catherine Tompkins, Associate Dean of Faculty and Staff Affairs and Professor in the Department of Social Work within Mason’s College of Public Health.

Debra A. Stroiney

The goal of Raffegeau’s project is to build an interdisciplinary community-academic partnership to address fall prevention and to develop programming and activities, open to the public, that will enhance wellness and quality of life for a diverse population of older adults. This endeavor will take place at the Northern Virginia Center on Aging, housed within the Wellness Center for Older Adults (WCOA), a facility providing daytime care and support for older adults with intellectual disabilities and located just a few miles from Mason’s Fairfax campus. In addition to Mason faculty, this initiative will engage graduate and undergraduate students who will be given the opportunity to develop skills in working with older adults.

Implementation of the project is well underway. Raffegeau anticipates that this spring her team will launch wellness assessments where the public can visit the WCOA for screening of blood pressure, strength, physical function, and mental/cognitive functioning—all free of charge. In other activities, students will be recruited to teach “Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL)” classes. SAIL is an evidence-based exercise intervention intended to prevent falls. Classes focus on strength, balance, and fitness for older adults. Students (from any major) will be recruited, trained, and paid to conduct classes given twice a week at the wellness center beginning in the fall of this year. Raffegeau is hopeful that the SAIL program can eventually expand to other types of exercise at multiple sites throughout Northern Virginia and that this will help build a pipeline for community-based learning and research.

When asked about her research interests in relation to this ORIEI funded project, Raffegeau explained, “My background is in older adult fall prevention and as a new faculty member here at Mason, my work depends on building relationships with potential subjects.”

She continued, “While I seek access to older adults in my community, I am working to conduct my research in a way that benefits the people who are most underserved, those with intellectual disabilities. This project is a chance to serve our local community of older adults, to show students how fulfilling working with older people can be, and to conduct research emphasizing positive impact and research of consequence.”

Raffegeau expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from Mason’s College of Public Health on this project. She stated, “Dr. Emily Ihara, chair of the Department of Social Work, and Dr. Cathy Thompkins, professor in the Department of Social Work, have done much of the legwork necessary to establish a partnership between Mason and the WCOA. They are kind enough to lend us a hand in expanding on their model to include Kinesiology students and faculty in their mission-driven research. They will help us establish our partnership at the WCOA and conduct our community-based assessments.”

Raffegeau also recognized Jessica Mitro, Assistant Professor in Mason’s Department of Global and Community Health, who will be working with team members in helping them develop an understanding of the student and participant experience throughout the project.

Please join us in congratulating Tiphanie Raffegeau and members of her team on being selected for the 2023 ORIEI Seed Funding award. Her multidisciplinary project is yet another example of how CEHD faculty at Mason work across the university and engage with the local community on research initiatives that improve the quality of life for its residents.