Strengthening Informal Support Resources with Strategic Methodological Advances

Associate Name: Sarah L. Szanton

Funding Source/Period of the Grant: NIA P30 09/30/14-05/31/19


This application seeks to establish a new Edward R. Roybal Center at Johns Hopkins University that will provide visionary leadership and critical infrastructure to stimulate, facilitate, and extend innovative research in the behavioral and social sciences for older adults. The proposed Johns Hopkins Roybal Center (JHRC) will address two focus areas of the request for applications (RFA-AG-14-004): Focus area 4 - novel methods for analyzing programs affecting older populations; and Focus area 5 - novel programs or practices at homes, workplaces, or firms benefiting older people in specific priority areas. A unifying theme of the JHRC will be an emphasis on better understanding and strengthening the informal support resources of vulnerable older adult populations, particularly those with physical or cognitive impairments. Informal support resources encompass a number of dimensions, including family factors (e.g., marital status, number and location of adult children, caregiver availability); the size, structure, and diversity of one's social network; the amount of contact, support, and engagement achieved through these relationships, and the degree of coordination between informal support resources and more formal care services. As healthcare services and other programs for older adults become more home- and community-based, and less reliant on traditional institutional delivery models, it is vitally important to extend programs and services beyond a patient-centered approach to also include key family members, caregivers, and other aspects of the older adult's social network. A second recurring theme of the JHRC will be on methodological innovations that better advance the evidence-base for how strengthening informal support resources can benefit the health and well-being of older adults. Six initial pilot studies will be supported as part of the JHRC that address the informal support needs of older adults across a diverse set of clinical conditions including dementia, stroke, end stage renal disease, and multiple chronic conditions. Sophisticated technological and methodological advances are essential to the effective translation of social and behavioral research findings into applied practices that make a difference in the lives of older adults with these conditions and their families (From NIH Report).