Promising Interventions to Promote Safe Aging in Place for Diverse Populations and Communities

Thursday, January 15, 2015: 1:30 PM-3:15 PM
La Galeries 6, Second Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Aging Services and Gerontology
Symposium Organizer:
Amanda Lehning, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore
In recent decades policymakers, service providers, and researchers have encouraged the development and implementation of interventions to help older adults age in place in their own homes and communities. This interest in aging in place is motivated by a combination of factors, including: (1) surveys by organizations such as AARP indicating the overwhelming majority of older adults would like to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, (2) emerging evidence of the benefits of aging in place for elder health and well-being, and (3) increased efforts to divert older adults from expensive institutional long-term care. While aging in place in and of itself is often portrayed as a positive outcome, over the past few years scholars (e.g., Golant, 2008; Torres-Gil & Hofland, 2012) have called attention to the differences between those who are “aging in place” and those who are “stuck in place”. Older adults who are aging in place are able to participate in community life, receive formal and informal supports when necessary, and enjoy high quality of life. Conversely, older adults who are stuck in place may be socially isolated, have unmet need for services, and experience a premature decline in health and functioning.

The goal of this symposium is to identify promising interventions to promote aging in place rather than being stuck in place. The five presentations highlight some of the unique challenges of safe aging in place for vulnerable older adults from diverse backgrounds and diverse types of communities. The first paper draws from focus groups to inform senior transportation programs for promoting mobility and aging in place among older adults living in rural communities. The second paper examines survey data collected from suburban recipients of home-delivered meals, highlighting the critical role that this volunteer-based service plays in improving the health and quality of life of older adults living alone. The third paper examines cooperative senior housing as a site for aging in place for low-income older adults. Combining data from multiple sources, this paper identifies some institutional and individual-level barriers to aging in place in senior housing and offers recommendations for combining formal and informal support in both congregate and community-based settings. The fourth paper examines disparities in health and functioning among non-White recipients of home health care and explores institutional factors contributing to these disparities. Using data from a nationally-representative survey, the final paper challenges prior studies by finding that African American elders are less likely to fall than Whites, and identifies some social and familial protective factors that should be incorporated into falls prevention programs. Prior research indicates that falls are a risk factor for relocation to a nursing home.   

Reflecting the myriad factors that can contribute to whether an older adult is safely aging in place or is stuck in place, these five presentations address a variety of community-based interventions for older adults in which social workers play a key role. Implications for research, policy and practice, particularly the need for better integration across these services, will be discussed.

* noted as presenting author
Perspectives on Transportation Among Rural Appalachian Older Adults
Moon Choi, PhD, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Amy M. Schuster, MSW, University of Kentucky; Nancy E. Schoenberg, PhD, University of Kentucky
Home-Delivered Meals Program: A Promising Intervention for Suburban Older Adults Living Alone
KyongWeon Lee, MSW, Ohio State University; Meghan Jenkins Morales, MSW, AgeOptions
Individual, Institutional, and Community Barriers to Aging in Place in Low-Income Cooperative Senior Housing
Amanda Lehning, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore; Hilary Wiseman, BA, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Promoting Aging in Place By Promoting Equity in Home Health Care
Joan Davitt, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Falls Risk Among Community-Dwelling Adults Aging in Place
Emily Joy Nicklett, PhD, MSW, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Robert Joseph Taylor, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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