The aim of the program for Social and Behavioral Sciences is to conduct interdisciplinary and multi-method research in order to understand how sociocultural, behavioral, and psychological factors influence: a) the aging process; b) access to, use, and quality of health care services; and c) patient, family, and organizational level outcomes. Our objectives are to:

  • Conduct research on caregiving and health and to develop effective interventions and policies to ameliorate social disparities, thereby improving healthy aging and quality of life across the lifespan.
  • Provide training and mentorship to students and faculty to encourage them to investigate the sociocultural, behavioral, and psychological dimensions of health and aging. This involves lending expertise in social science methodologies to the field of medicine.
  • Interface with the surrounding community members and organizations to establish effective community outreach.

We strive to conduct all of the above activities in collaboration and consultation with the other Buehler Center projects and with other social scientists from the fields of psychology, demography, sociology, and health services research.

EPEC-Long Term Care

Celia Berdes, PhD, MSPH, received a grant from the Retirement Research Foundation for a project called "Education in Palliative and End-of-life Care for Long-term Care (EPEC-LTC)." The project will develop and test a novel method to assess the need for person-centered/palliative care in nursing homes. The results of the needs assessment will be used to create an adaptation of the existing EPEC Curriculum for use in the long-term care setting.

Celia Berdes, PhD, MSPH, reported on the first pilot conference of the EPEC-Long-term Care Curriculum at the 2008 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. She is also working with Joshua Hauser, MD, to develop funding for an interactive distance learning version of EPEC-Long-term Care.

Culture Change for Technology Adoption in Long-term Care Facilities

In September 2008, Celia Berdes, PhD, MSPH, along with Presbyterian Homes colleagues Jane H. Grad, MBA (vice president of information management) and Mary Ann Anichini, MSN, GNP (director of Operation Excellence), completed their project to develop a person-centered care module within Caretracker™, a proprietary software that documents the care work of nurses aides in nursing homes.

The project was supported by a grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health’s "Innovations in Long-term Care Quality Grants Program." Together with a clinical team headed by Linda Dotson, RN, MSN, the project team identified the minimum set of information about person-centered care to be collected, designed and pilot-tested the software module and data reports, and trained all staff in how to use these tools. In addition, they conducted research on the residents’ preferences, values, and satisfaction with person-centered care and evaluated those aspects of the project that promoted its acceptance. The team reported the results of the project at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Life Services Network of Illinois.

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Age-Friendly Chicago

Age-Friendly Chicago is currently surveying Chicago residents age 55 years or older about aging in Chicago. Click here if you would like to complete the survey. You can also take the Age-Friendly Chicago survey in Spanish, Polish, or Chinese.

Chicago is home to 2.8 million residents, with roughly 10% of that population aged 65 or over. US census estimates suggest the number of people over 65 in Illinois will increase 18% by the year 2030. These figures highlight the need to create livable communities which sustain the health and wellbeing of older adults. Age-Friendly Chicago is a partnership project between the City of Chicago’s Department for Family Support and Services and the Buehler Center working together with older adults living in the community to deliver livable age-friendly communities.

In August 2013, research leaders Rebecca Johnson, PhD, MSc, Amy Eisenstein, PhD, MSc (from the department of Medical Social Sciences) and June McKoy MD, MPH, JD, MBA (from the department of General Internal Medicine) completed Phase 1 of a baseline assessment to support City planning to maintain the Age-Friendly status awarded to it by the World Health Organization in 2011. This initial project was supported by a grant from the City of Chicago’s Department for Family and Support Services who partnered with the project team to facilitate focus groups with older adults in Chicago’s eight regional senior centers.

In October 2014, The Chicago Community Trust awarded funding for Phase 2 of the Age-Friendly baseline assessment. Thanks to this generous award from The Trust, this phase includes an environmental scan of global age-friendly indicators, interviews with 40 key stakeholders from across Chicago’s public and private sectors, and the development and distribution of a community-wide survey open to all older adults on the age-friendliness of Chicago. Further analysis of both the qualitative and quantitative data from this phase will help to inform the development of a citywide Age-Friendly Chicago action plan in 2015. The project ends September 2014.

A further award from the Washington Square Health Foundation in April 2014 has enabled the project team to expand our scope of Phase 2 in order to hear the views and record the needs of informal caregivers for older adults aging in the community.

Ultimately, these project findings will be useful to researchers, service providers, City of Chicago departments, and sister agencies, assuring “age-friendly” indicators can be incorporated across policies and practices to help sustain Chicago as an age-friendly city.

For more information on the project, or to discuss preliminary findings, please e-mail Dr. Johnson. You may also click here to view a recent poster summary of the project.

To request a copy of the Age-Friendly project newsletter please e-mail Lara Boyken.

Click here to view a video presentation of findings on Phase 1 presented as part of the Eckenhoff lecture and Smart symposium in October 2013.