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UMBC Center for Aging Studies Awarded Grants to Study Autonomy, Generativity and Stigma

Dinah Winnick
Communications Manager
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

Faculty of UMBC’s Center for Aging Studies, affiliated with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, have received several large grants from the National Institute on Aging to support groundbreaking research in recent months, including three beginning this semester.

“Autonomy in Assisted Living: A Cultural Analysis,” led by PIs Ann Christine Frankowski and Robert L. Rubinstein, is a four-year grant to study autonomy in six diverse assisted living settings, which provide residential and functional assistance to primarily older adults through a person-centered, consumer-oriented, social model of care. Researchers have demonstrated that older adults’ sense of autonomy – expressed as independence, choice or control – is integral to their health and well-being. The research team will examine how autonomy, a core American value and a key component of assisted living philosophy, is defined, experienced and negotiated by assisted living residents. This ethnographic research will inform policy and practice on how assisted living can provide an environment resulting in a better quality of life and care for the increasing number of adults living longer and moving into senior housing.

“Generativity in the Lives of Older Women” (GLOW) is a four-year project led by PI Robert L. Rubinstein and co-PI Kate de Medeiros aimed at better understanding how older women without children invest themselves in future generations. People often wrongly assume older women are mothers and/or grandmothers. In reality, approximately 20% of people 65 and over in the U.S. were “childless” in 2011—a figure that is expected to grow to 30% in 2030. GLOW researchers will interview 200 women to explore their views on the meaning that not having children has had in their lives; talk about ways they have influenced future generations through volunteerism, teaching, passing along personal objects and other creative activities; and discuss their plans for managing future health care needs, which might include family caregiving. This study will allow us to learn more about an important yet often overlooked population with an eye to helping service organizations and policymakers rethink assumptions about family structure in older age. GLOW is accompanied by a supplemental grant focusing on older Russian women who immigrated to the U.S. after the fall of communism.

Department chair J. Kevin Eckert and co-PI Brandy Harris-Wallace received a Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research for “Stigma and the Multicultural Workforce.” This project will focus on cultural differences among direct care workers, their experiences of stigma and their own stigmatizing attitudes and behavior toward others in assisted living settings. The researchers will develop and pilot a survey instrument to measure these experiences, attitudes and behaviors, which could be used in the future to identify actual and potential conflict areas and develop training programs to address stigma in direct care work.

Posted: February 18, 2011, 12:00 PM