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Claude D. Pepper Center

The University of Maryland Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (UM-OAIC) was established in 1994. Since that time, we have successfully demonstrated that rehabilitation interventions improve cardiovascular fitness, ambulation (walking), balance and activities of daily living which can reduce health-related risk factors in older individuals with chronic disabling diseases. The UM-OAIC is made possible by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIH).

Our Goal

The UM-OAIC goal is to build on the sciences and therapeutic applications of exercise and rehabilitation by: 1) advancing our understanding of the mechanisms by which exercise and activity-based rehabilitation interventions directed at specific impairments affect multiple body systems underlying functional performance; and 2) developing and testing interventions to restore function and minimize disability following acute disabling events and gradual declines related to serious chronic diseases.

Our Mission

The UM-OAIC mission addresses the process by which function is lost, and the multiple factors that affect the onset and progression of disability.  Building on these important perspectives, the UM-OAIC focuses on the restoration of function in order to improve function in those with impairments, and prevent or delay further progression in those who are already disabled. This has been aptly referred to as enablement.

The UM-OAIC continues to focus its research on the processes involved in enablement by identifying the deficits or impairments associated with specific disabling conditions, investigating the mechanisms and pathophysiology leading to the impairments, developing exercise and other activity-based interventions that target these mechanisms and deficits, testing them in clinical laboratories/centers under carefully controlled conditions, and then adapting them for implementation and further testing in community settings outside the medical center.

Center Activities

The UM-OAIC is investigating innovative ways to maintain or restore independence for older adults. Our mission is being accomplished by:

  • Conducting research that examines the mechanisms underlying the functional impairments associated with stroke, hip fracture, and prevalent chronic diseases in older people;
  • Designing novel, efficacious exercise and activity-based rehabilitation interventions that produce clinically relevant outcomes and study the mechanisms underlying them;
  • Translating the most efficacious interventions developed in UM-OAIC clinical laboratories and in other clinical centers for implementation and rigorous evaluation outside the clinic (e.g., home, senior center, gym);
  • Supporting pilot and exploratory studies (PESs), UM-OAIC junior scholar research, development projects (DPs), and externally funded projects (EP) that examine the mechanisms underlying disability and the processes of recovery, and that design and test interventions for the restoration and maintenance of function in clinical laboratories and settings outside the medical center;
  • Fostering the career development of junior faculty/scholars from multiple disciplines into independent, academic scientists with expertise in the study of older persons with disabling diseases through mentor-based, bench-to-bedside translational research training that includes didactic and experimental/practical-applied training in conducting independent, aging research.

The UM-OAIC has three resource cores (RC): Biostatistics, Informatics and Translational Science (RC1); Applied Physiology and Tissue Mechanisms (RC2); and Neuromotor Mechanisms and Rehabilitation (RC3), that serve as a resource for the conduct of innovative exercise and activity-based rehabilitation research.  An enhanced Research Education Core (REC) (formerly RCDC) will provide didactic and experimental training under the guidance of an interdisciplinary mentoring team to prepare the next generation of scientists committed to careers in aging research. 

Center aims are being accomplished by: 1) using multidisciplinary research working groups (RWGs) to provide mentoring and guide REC and PES investigators and faculty scholars in designing and conducting their projects, reporting results, and developing future investigators; 2) supporting studies that determine the mechanisms underlying functional impairments and implement exercise and activity-based rehabilitation interventions to improve clinically relevant outcomes; 3) translate safe and efficacious interventions into randomized clinical trials outside the medical center with the goal of changing practice for those with disabling diseases and conditions. The restoration of functional independence through an integrated approach that includes exercise and activity-based rehabilitation will transform the care of older people with disabling diseases and condition.

Cover of booklet

Download the poster abstracts from the 2nd Annual Aging Research Symposium. The event, hosted by the Center for Reseach on Aging, was to be held on April 24, 2020, but could not take place due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Funding Opportunities


The Center is excited to offer the opportunity for Pepper Center pilot investigators and junior scholars as well as Pepper Center affiliates that are interested in applying for a pilot or junior scholar position in the future to apply for micro-funds ranging from $500-$1,000 for a current project that relates to the Pepper Center theme.  There is no deadline to apply as funds are available on an as needed basis. For more information refer to Pepper Center Micro Funding.

For More Information

Contact Anne Sullens