Collection of Preliminary Data on the Interaction of Social Engagement and Stress in Older Adults

Dorothy Edwards, Ph.D.

Project Overview:
In early 2002, the Washington University Center for Aging (WUCFA) conducted a study funded by the Administration on Aging to evaluate “aging in place” in a geographic region with a disproportionately high number of older adults, or a “naturally occurring retirement community” (NORC). The specific aims of the project were: 1) characterize the older adult residents of the NORC; 2) determine the types, levels, and patterns of informal and formal care and supportive services used by the older adults; 3) determine which services were required and desired by older adults to enable them to remain living independently with the highest possible quality of life; and 4) pilot and evaluate intervention programs with the following components: a) home modification; b) family communication; and c) wellness, informal support and health promotion. WUCFA’s NORC project was carried out by an interdisciplinary research team.

Between October 2003 and October 2004, 330 subjects participated in the study. Analysis of the data has supported several papers and a proposed RO1 application to test the hypothesis that higher levels of social engagement are associated with less stress and better quality of life. In preparation for the R01 application, this study would re-survey the original 330 participants who completed the needs assessment interview with directed questions on stress, health status, life satisfaction, depression, and emergency/hospital utilization. The specific aims of this mini-grant are:

1. To explore previously collected descriptive measures on stress, health status, life satisfaction, and depression more fully.
2. To determine the relocation rate (and possible death) of the study population since 2002-2003.
3. To prepare preliminary data for the R01 application later this year.