This is my published article entitled "Engaging university aging research in a continuing care retirement community." The article is from the Journal of Active Aging Vol. 9 No. 2 March/April 2010
Engaging university aging research
in a continuing care retirement
Why create a university- Participants don’t often know how thought the intervention had a
based research program changes in their lives might affect major impact had he gotten a new
within the CCRC environ- Francis’s research outcomes. But for a sci- hearing aid in the middle of the
ment? Persuasive reasons entist studying hearing and cognition, it study.”
include benefits for could have been disastrous for a partici-
residents, researchers and pant to change hearing aids in the mid- Francis is one of a half-dozen researchers
communities dle of a study. Had Francis, like many involved in a collaboration between
scientists, kept his distance from his Purdue’s Center on the Life Course and
by Michael J. Logan, MHA, CASP research participants, he may have never Aging (CALC) and University Place, a
known about the new hearing aid and not-for-profit, faith-based continuing
Alex Francis gets to know his research the way it would have affected his care retirement community (CCRC), in
participants—and their spouses—better study. West Lafayette, Indiana. Born in 2003 of
than most scientists would. So, while it a desire to add to the wellness program at
could have been idle chat for a partici- “It would have significantly changed my University Place and Purdue’s need for
pant’s wife to mention that her husband results,” says Francis, an associate profes- quality research participants, the partner-
was getting a new hearing aid, it raised a sor of speech, language and hearing sci- ship has grown beyond what was once
red flag for Francis. ence at Purdue University. “I would have envisioned.
90 The Journal on Active Aging G March/April 2010
To build a strategic relationship with a Haddad and Shirley Rietdyk work in bal-
Ten benefits of university
university, a CCRC must take an active ance and motor function in older adults.
aging research in continu-
role in providing opportunities for aging Haddad and Rietdyk use training meth-
ing care retirement
research and education-related intern- ods and equipment meant to improve
ships for undergraduate and graduate stu- balance and assess an individual’s ability communities
dents, as University Place has done. to make positive changes. The researchers
Many communities have set the stage by believe that better balance control could 1. A CCRC will better understand
moving to wellness programs that focus lead to better mechanical control overall. where to spend funds for
on the mental, physical, spiritual, social, programs.
emotional and vocational well-being of And Francis, as mentioned previously, is
their residents. Rather than being reactive researching high-level cognitive process- 2. The CCRC/university relation-
to situations that are bound to arise with ing, including attention, memory and ship will be more balanced.
an aging population, these CCRCs speech perception. His work is often
have developed programs aimed at referred to as the cocktail party prob- 3. A university affiliation will offer
helping older adults help themselves lem—people tend to have difficulty a community benefit, thereby
and take part in their own health and focusing on a conversation in a noisy supporting a not-for-profit
fitness. room. Francis says this problem is worse CCRC’s property tax exemption.
in individuals with hearing loss and
CCRCs have a financial obligation to could be tied to cognitive ability. He 4. Residents will test interventions
provide care for their residents in the wants to find out if increasing cognitive that may benefit their lives.
least restrictive, most affordable level of ability improves the ability to filter
care (e.g., independent living, assisted information in a “cocktail party” 5. Residents will have opportunities
living, health care or dementia care). situation. to shape the research agenda.
By providing aging-related research,
University Place and other CCRCs will Besides those programs, which are held 6. Researchers will gain a pool of
have a better understanding of where to on-site at University Place, Purdue’s research participants from across
spend capital dollars for strategic initia- CALC includes more than 50 faculty the health spectrum.
tives and programs. associates from a wide range of disci-
plines—from pharmacy and nursing to 7. Given their familiar surround-
A focus on functionality foods and nutrition, to hospitality and ings, research participants in a
CALC’s research programs have a similar tourism. According to Ferraro, the center CCRC will feel less stressed than
philosophy of finding interventions that is a direct response to a field that has those who go to a laboratory.
stave off age-related problems in older grown tremendously in recent decades.
adults, rather than treating those prob- “There are a lot of fields that are giving 8. Through their relationships with
lems after they have occurred. “We more attention to the aging of adults,” he residents, university students will
emphasize the process of aging and main- says. develop a deeper understanding
taining functionality,” explains Ken of the aging process.
Ferraro, director of CALC. Purdue’s aging research program itself has
steadily evolved over the years. What 9. Longer studies will be possible,
For example, Karen Yehle, an assistant started as a Center for Research on Aging leading to “more compelling”
professor in Purdue’s School of Nursing, in 1985, turned into a Gerontology findings.
and Kimberley Plake, an associate profes- Program just 10 years later. Now that
10. Research data will aid the CCRC
sor in the Department of Pharmacy program is the educational arm of
industry in creating beneficial
Practice, are working with individuals CALC.
programs and policies for
who have had or are at risk of heart
events, such as heart attacks or heart “We are stimulating the teaching side
failure. The program uses a holistic and we are stimulating the research side,”
approach to heart health, including phar- Ferraro explains. “We really see how edu- as opportunities to interact with college
macy, nutrition and lifestyle changes. cation and research are linked.” students working in their community.
One study has assessed health literacy These traditional marketing opportuni-
and how it influences self-care in people A more active partnership ties are passive in nature and one-sided.
with heart failure, while another focuses University Place similarly benefits from In other words, the CCRC relies heavily
on caregiver burden for those tasked with having Purdue faculty researchers on the on the university to provide opportuni-
administering medication to family community’s campus. Historically, ties for their residents, rather than pro-
members. CCRCs located in college communities viding tangible benefits to the university.
market and promote accessibility to con-
In the Department of Health and tinuing education opportunities, sporting
Continued on page 92
Kinesiology, assistant professors Jeff events and campus life functions, as well
The Journal on Active Aging G March/April 2010 91
Engaging university aging research in a continuing care
retirement community Continued from page 91
Moreover, when a CCRC is in a universi- to help are real people. They’re not a par- healthy end of the spectrum. And those
ty town and markets and sells to univer- ticipant number,” she states. “It makes it with a hearing disability aren’t likely to
sity retirees, the community is expected more personal and probably more impor- want to come to campus too often if they
to have a collaboration and partnership tant,” continues Yehle, who concludes can help it.
with the university. By providing a writ- that “working with the residents adds a
ten affiliation agreement that emphasizes richness to our research.” “Almost by definition, the people who
research and educational opportunities could do studies on campus are the
for students, the CCRC will have a more Although the affiliation between CALC healthiest of the healthy,” Francis
balanced strategic relationship with the and University Place provides the frame- observes. “If you want to look at how
university. At University Place, CALC is work for these meaningful research inter- effective training is, you need a control
a tangible symbol of that collaboration, actions, this kind of relationship offers population. Older people without hear-
highlighting a two-way benefit. other advantages as well. ing impairment don’t come into our clin-
ic, but they come here [to University
For residents, there is a direct benefit A host of benefits Place].”
from Purdue researchers doing studies at CCRCs must not overlook the benefit
University Place. Residents are given the that an affiliation with a university brings The research participants are also in a
opportunity to test new interventions to both organizations. Despite some more comfortable environment in the
that may have impacts on their lives— operational costs, a contractual written University Place community, lessening
from new methods to improve balance, strategic affiliation with a university pro- the stress that might come with being
to nutrition plans that may increase heart vides a tangible community benefit for tested in an unfamiliar laboratory. “This
health. CALC researchers, affiliated nurs- not-for-profit CCRCs to support their is a naturalistic environment,” Yehle
es and students also continue working property tax exemption. notes. “There is not a burden on some-
with residents long after a study ends, one who’d like to participate.”
sometimes continuing successful inter- To get the affiliation, CCRCs must pro-
ventions and sometimes just using best vide a tangible value—motivation for Further, both graduate and undergradu-
practices to help individuals with whatev- university faculty members to drive to a ate students have deepened their under-
er problems they might have. community and set up hours. University standing of the aging process by develop-
Place provides research space, office fur- ing relationships with the residents,
CALC has two goals for all of its re- niture, computers, office supplies, copiers rather than studying them from a dis-
search. The first goal is familiar to any- and access to an older-adult population. tance, states Haddad. “For many [stu-
one in a medical profession: do no harm. dents], it was their first time work-
The second isn’t always a given, however, The most obvious benefit to CALC is ing with a population like this,” he
for scientists working with research par- having a willing group of research partic- comments. “They each had a great
ticipants: ensure that those being studied ipants available for a variety of research experience.”
receive a benefit. programs. Actually, finding qualified
research participants isn’t too difficult in There’s also another, more subtle, advan-
Francis sees to it that all his research par- and of itself. But factor in asking an tage in doing studies in a participant’s
ticipants gain something, even if they’re older adult to navigate a confusing cam- home, according to Ferraro. Those stud-
selected as a control and not tested on a pus with limited parking and long walks ies become longitudinal.
new intervention. Often, the control resi- to research facilities, as well as needing
dents will be offered training or instruc- them to do that multiple times, and the “It’s a fundamentally different experience
tion they didn’t receive during a trial. “I participant pool evaporates quickly. to come to a resident’s home and see the
couldn’t look somebody in the eye and “Often the first question I get from pos- resident in their own environment,”
say, ‘Come on in and waste your time for sible research subjects is, ‘How often Ferraro says. “We have the ability to
40 hours, so that I can get good data,’” would I have to come to campus?’” track the efficiency of the study for a
Francis says. “I want to do good science, Francis says. long period of time. It can make findings
but I want to do good science that is more compelling.”
useful.” Purdue has a hearing clinic from which
Francis could recruit potential partici- And residents who feel comfortable with
Yehle adds that this approach keeps the pants. However, the pool of candidates the researchers can help shape the
researchers grounded. “It always serves as visiting the clinic has limits, because research in ways traditional participants
a reminder that the people you’re trying there are no visitors who make up the don’t often do. During open house
92 The Journal on Active Aging G March/April 2010
events, University Place residents share helping people manage their own health
their health concerns and ideas for new and well-being,” Ferraro states. “We Setting up a university
studies. For the researchers, it’s a chance to wanted to see it as something that’s aging research partnership
find out how they can make a difference sustainable.”
to the people they’re trying to help. “It • Develop and execute your affilia-
allows for two-way feedback with the resi- Still, some opportunities are being devel- tion agreement in collaboration
dents,” Plake notes, and “will influence oped to widen the impact the partner- with the University Engagement
the direction of our work on caregivers.” ship will have on students. Rietdyk and Office, Strategic Planning Office
Adds Yehle, “There’s not so much of a dis- Haddad are developing a senior-level or Office of the Treasurer.
connect between research and the real course that will combine classroom learn-
world.” ing on motor control and aging with • Incorporate resident educational
hands-on experience in using that knowl- opportunities, intergenerational
The researchers have no concerns about edge to help University Place residents. exposure, employment, and
getting too close to their research partici- “[Students will] get some real-life experi- research and intern opportunities
pants and tainting the objectivity of their ence applying what they’ve learned in within the affiliation agreement.
work. “Even though we know the people class,” Haddad says—an opportunity they
personally, the information is blinded and don’t always have, he explains. • Create an advisory board that will
we don’t know an individual’s outcome,” have the responsibility and author-
Plake explains. According to Rietdyk, students are lining ity to implement the goals of the
up in droves for the class, which will affiliation agreement. Advisory
In fact, the only disadvantage any of the accept only top students in their pro- board members might include uni-
researchers mention is the inconvenience grams. That competition has students versity department chairs, universi-
of having essentially two laboratories sepa- clambering for better grades and a shot at ty administrators, resident council
rated by several miles. “Sometimes I forget the new class. The experience they gain representatives, or a resident repre-
my notebook in one place and have to go from working with residents will be worth sentative from the strategic plan-
back,” Francis admits. “But that’s my own it, she believes. ning or finance committee.
“We can teach [students] about what it’s • Develop a Community Benefit
A valuable experience like to be old, or they could read some- and Social Accountability tool in
With its university-based research pro- thing an old person has written,” says order to measure the success of the
gram now in its seventh year, University Rietdyk. “But, they can actually experi- affiliation. Indicators include num-
Place hopes that the model created with ence that at University Place.” ber of hours for student intern-
Purdue will advance research in the field ships, number of educational pro-
of aging. The community also hopes to Michael J. Logan, MHA, CASP, is currently grams offered, and number of
further the use of this kind of information the executive director of University Place, a research programs offered.
to better the lives of those living in not-for-profit, faith-based continuing care
CCRCs. retirement community affiliated with • Be sure to have an advertising arti-
Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, cle within the affiliation agreement
The CCRC industry has little accessible Indiana. Owned by the Franciscan Sisters of in order to market your communi-
data that its leaders can use to shape pro- Chicago, University Place received the 2009 ty’s exclusive affiliation with the
grams and policies to benefit their resi- Readers Choice Award for Best Retirement university.
dents. When a university conducts re- Community. Logan, a graduate of Indiana
search within a CCRC, faculty members University, also holds a master’s degree in • Incorporate a term and termina-
can collect real data that they can share health administration from Saint Louis tion article within the affiliation
with the state and national associations University. Since 1999, he has been recog- agreement. Generally, a five-year
as well as their corporate board of nized as a servant leader who embraces term with a 30-day written notice
directors. opportunities to serve older adults and con- to terminate is sufficient.
tribute to the field of aging science, as well as
Purdue’s research program at University enhance the lives of the employees who serve • Remember that the affiliation
Place will probably stay at around three the CCRC mission. Most recently, he present- agreement must state that both
programs for the time being, according to ed at the Catholic Healthcare Association parties are autonomous and shall
Ferraro, so as not to overburden the par- (CHA) Annual Conference on “Resident be governed independently, and
ticipant pool. He is also keen on Engagement: A Ministry of Empowerment” that neither party shall have the
researchers conducting long studies, so and the Indiana Association for Homes and authority to bind the other with-
they become ingrained in the University Services for the Aging (IAHSA) Annual out the other’s specific written
Place community and residents become Conference on “Perspectives on Faith Based consent.
more comfortable with them. “There real- Leadership.” Logan can be reached at
ly are more active ways of monitoring and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Journal on Active Aging G March/April 2010 93