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Science

The latest research projects conducted by CHAI team members

CHAI Awarded an Eisner Grant

FUNDED BY THE EISNER FOUNDATION

CHAI is informed by six key principles: intergenerational harmony, anti-racism, inclusion, opportunity, equity, and choice. These principles help guide our programs to benefit individuals and communities where we learn, work, live, and play. With the partnership of the Eisner Foundation, we can strengthen our intergenerational portfolio of programs. We learned early on that some individuals want a meaningful intergenerational interaction but can only commit a few hours of their time, while others want a longer and deeper interaction. As such, our programmatic offerings span three "plan and learn zones" from intergenerational art interventions and discussions on aging and life to academic and professional courses to our intergenerational home sharing. We believe this portfolio of intergenerational programs fosters awareness, understanding, and appreciation for collaboration across generations. Moreover, we have evidence that it significantly impacts participants' stereotypes on aging; affects health, social and economic outcomes for older and younger individuals; and promotes tight societal bonds between the generations.

Exploring Non-Genetic Risk and Protective Factors to Cognitive Health: Implications for Productive Aging and Ecologies Theories

FUNDED BY NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, SILVER SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK, DEAN'S UPSTREAM AWARD ON PREVENTION

Cognitive impairment is a national and worldwide epidemic (National Institute on Aging, 2018). While genetic inheritance strongly influences cognitive impairment (National Institute on Aging, 2015), there are a number of non-genetic modifiable risk and protective factors that can bolster cognitive reserve and brain health (Merzenich, Nahum, & Van Vleet, 2013), which may delay the onset and severity of impairment including Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD). Work is an important social determinant of health. Yet, how occupational characteristics in mid-life influence cognition in later life is not fully known. This body of research is nascent with inconsistent conceptualization and operationalization of key concepts and mixed results. The objectives of this investigation are to conduct two scoping reviews of the literature. The first will examine how novelty and complexity of occupational characteristics are associated with cognition. The second scoping review will explore how key social determinants of health (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, education) moderate the relationship between occupational novelty/complexity and cognition. Both scoping reviews will critique and apply widely utilized prevention frameworks. These products will articulate a transdisciplinary research agenda for the fields of social work, psychology, public health and nursing.

PI: GONZALES, E.

FUNDING SOURCE: NYU UP-STREAM GRANT

Weathering the Storm of Cognitive Inequities: Testing the Minority Stress and Cognition Model with Indigenous Older Adults

NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON AGING (NIH/NIA)

The number of Indigenous older adults (IOAs) in the United States, defined here as Native American and Alaska Natives, will more than double in the next 30 years. Concurrently, the number of IOAs living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRDs) will also increase. Our limited knowledge about the cognitive health of IOAs represents a crisis of health equity. This proposed study aims to not only shed new light on this issue, but also to promote the equitable inclusion of IOAs in cognitive health research, policy, and intervention. This proposed study is guided by a conceptual model that integrates these risk factors into a stress framework; the Minority Stress and Cognition Model. This model posits that exposure to higher levels of psychosocial stress in the form of individual (e.g. perceived racism) and systematic discrimination (e.g. low quality of education, poverty) increase one’s susceptibility to chronic health conditions and the risk of cognitive impairment in later life via an accumulation of allostatic load. This study extends this model to IOAs, a population of color that also experienced systemic racism, poor educational quality, poverty, health inequities, and racism in the United States. This proposal aims to address these knowledge gaps by using restricted Health and Retirement Study (HRS) data to investigate how an understudied group of IOAs fared over a 10-year period (2008-2018) in the domain of cognitive health. The specific aims of this proposed study are: 1) To investigate longitudinal differences in cognitive health between Indigenous, Black, Hispanic, and White older adults; 2) To determine how psychosocial factors are associated with total cognition trajectories among Indigenous, Black, Hispanic, and White older adults; and 3) To determine how behavioral, and physical stress factors are associated with total cognition trajectories among Indigenous, Black, Hispanic, and White older adults. I hypothesize that alongside other risk factors for cognitive impairment (e.g. low levels of education, low SES, alcohol and cigarette use, physical inactivity, high allostatic loads) higher levels of perceived discrimination will be associated with lower overall total cognition trajectories and earlier onset of decline. Using restricted data from the Health and Retirement Study Core sample and the 2008-2016 Leave-Behind Questionnaire, this proposed study will investigate the change on a measure of total cognitive function (TICS-M). To do this, total cognitive function trajectories will be fitted with sociodemographic information (age, gender, race/ethnicity) and then modified first by psychosocial and then by physical, and behavioral factors. These relationships will be assessed using several statistical methods: 1) descriptive statistics, 2) t-test and chi-squared statistics, 3) correlation coefficients, and 4) mixed effect growth curve models. Missing data treatment will be conducted using Full Information Maximum Likelihood estimation. This proposed study has important implications for stress and cognition models, the health equity of Indigenous older adults, and future preventative research. This proposal is responsive to PAR-19-394: Aging Research Dissertation Awards to Increase Diversity.​

PI: WHETUNG, T.

FUNDING SOURCE: NIH/NIA

Predicting Cognitive Functioning in Later Life Through Machine Learning

Cognitive impairment is a worldwide epidemic. Racial and ethnic minorities carry a heavier burden of cognitive impairment when compared to Whites in the United States. This inequity is persistent and large. Yet, nearly a third of all dementia cases can be prevented and equity is within reach. Longitudinal and experimental studies have identified important predictors to bolster cognitive functioning and brain structure. Machine Learning (ML), however, is a novel statistical method that has rarely been utilized with predicting cognitive functioning in later life. While this method holds tremendous promise to interrogate and confirm existing theory, there are also significant ethical and methodological concerns that arise within the context of structural racism. The objectives of this study are to compare and contrast traditional statistical approaches with that of machine learning when identifying risk and protective factors to cognitive health among older Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites.

PI: GONZALES, E., BAO, F., & WANG, Y.

FUNDING SOURCE: DEAN'S UPSTREAM RESEARCH FUND AND THE C&M SILVER CENTER

Bolstering Economic Wellbeing and Health Among Graduate Students and Older Adults Through an Intergenerational Home Sharing Program

FUNDED BY THE AARP FOUNDATION, FAN FOX AND LESLIE R. SAMUELS FOUNDATION, INC., & NYU SILVER SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK 

Social isolation and economic insecurity undermine health. The Administration on Aging (2013) finds that 30% of adults aged 55 and older live alone and the rates jump to 50% for women aged 75 and older. Older women, people with disabilities, childless, family estranged, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults are particularly vulnerable to living alone, housing insecurity, and poverty (Administration on Aging, 2013). A lack of social contacts among older adults is estimated to cost society approximately $6.7 billion in additional federal spending annually (Flowers, Shaw & Farid, 2017). These risk factors undermine older adults’ preferences for aging-in community and aging-in-place.

 

Another major challenge is student debt. Student loan debt is currently at $1.48 trillion, affecting more than 44 million borrowers. The long-term effects are felt for many decades. Studies suggest that educational loan debt impacts student’s ability to purchase daily necessities as well as delay marriage and decisions to start a family, purchase a vehicle or home, or save for retirement.

 

NYU SSW will test an intergenerational solution to these problems. Through a matching process, students and community dwelling older adults will participate in one of two intergenerational home share models: income and service exchange.

PI: GONZALES, E.

FUNDING SOURCE: NYU UP-STREAM GRANT

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Systemic Racism as a Context Shaping Mental Health and Retirement

FUNDED BY U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION/ BOSTON COLLEGE’S SANDELL GRANT, PETER PAUL PROFESSORSHIP AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY, & NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON MINORITY HEALTH AND HEALTH DISPARITIES LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM

Racial and ethnic minorities suffer an undue burden of health disparities due to a wide range of social, economic, and environmental factors (Braveman & Barclay, 2009). The aims of this project are:

 

Aim 1. To identify and describe the correlates and prevalence of experiencing everyday discrimination, major life-time discrimination, chronic work discrimination, and living in (dis)advantaged neighborhoods.

 

Aim 2. To explore the accumulated effect of risk factors with health (self-report health, hypertension, anxiety, number of health conditions, depression, any cognitive problems, memory, purpose in life, life satisfaction).

 

Aim 3. To examine how discriminatory risk factors and health relate to retirement expectations (early retirement, full-retirement, delayed retirement) and labor force participation (age at which respondents retire).

PI: GONZALES, E.

FUNDING SOURCE: NYU UP-STREAM GRANT