Georgia Gerontology Consortium
Seed Grant Recipients
Research, Instructional Development & Community Programs
FY 2000-2001

Faculty Seed Grants



A Psychoeducational Intervention for Custodial Grandparents

Dr. Nancy P. Kropf, Ph.D., School of Social Work, The University of Georgia

About 10% of all grandparents will have responsibility to raise a grandchild(ren) at some point during their life. From a role theory perspective, this type of caregiving is an "off time" role as most grandparents are past their own child-rearing years. As a result, custodial grandparents experience numerous stressors that potentially compromise their caregiving ability, and health and functional status. With funds obtained through the John A. Hartford Foundation, a psychoeducational intervention has specifically been created for custodial grandparents. This audiotape series, "Let's Talk" addresses psychosocial, health, and social issues typically faced by this group of grandparents. The series contains eight cassettes with each lasting approximately 15 - 20 minutes. Funds are requested through the Georgia Gerontology Seed Grant Program to empirically evaluate the outcome of this intervention on custodial grandparents. A total of 60 grandparents will be recruited to review the tape series, and will be evaluated on changes in their caregiving competence, stress, and functional status. If positive outcomes are achieved, the intervention will add a unique method to provide education and support to custodial grandparents.



A Research Study and Educational Symposium for Older African Americans Living with Osteoarthritis

Leslie Taylor, Ph.D., P.T., Department of Physical Therapy, Georgia State University; Sharon King, Ph.D.; Carolyn Kee, Ph.D., RN

Growing older is virtually synonymous with developing osteoarthritis (OA). Estimates of those over the age of 55 years who have OA range from 70% to 85% (Senior, 2000). Although OA is not life threatening, it is a major contributorto diminished quality-of-life because of activity limitations and intermittentchronic pain that accompany the disease. There are intriguing indications that OA may be significantly different in important ways between African-Americans and Caucasians. A major proposal to the National Institute on Nursing Research (NINR) will be submitted in August 2001 to further explorethis topic. This Seed Grant proposal describes a plan to initiate a communityprogram in the form of a one-day symposium entitled "An Educational Symposiumfor Older African-Americans Living with Osteoarthritis. 'The goals of the symposium are 1) to increase awareness of OA symptom recognition, drug and non- pharmacological treatment options, and availability of community resources in a population of community-dwelling older African-Americans living with the disease and 2) to collect pilot data that will inform the proposed NINR research.

Symposium speakers will include an arthritis-specialist physician, physical therapist and nurse, a geriatric pharmacologist, and representatives from arthritis service organizations. Participants will complete pre- and post-test questionnaires to assess change in level of awareness about OA symptoms, progression, and management. Additionally, participants will engage in audio taped, round table discussions about the impact of OA on quality of life and self-management. Two months after the symposium, post-tests will be administered in order to assess changes in self-management strategies and activities of daily living abilities. The symposium will include a continental-style breakfast and luncheon for the participants, sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company. Funds are requested for general expenses of planning and presenting the symposium and for research assistance.



A Diary Intake Instrument for Use Among Older Adults with Multiple Chronic Conditions: A Pilot Study to Develop & Test

Leonard W. Poon, Ph.D., Gerontology Center, The University of Georgia; Sarah H. Gueldner, DSN, RN; Janice Penrod, Ph.D., RN

This proposal requests funds for a small pilot study to develop and test an instrument that will be used in our next phase of research proposal on coping mechanisms with co-existing health conditions among older adults. A pilot study is proposed to develop a diary intake methodology and instrument to capture daily signs and symptoms of existing chronic health conditions among older adults and their daily internal and external coping strategies. Following the development and preliminary testing of a diary instrument, ten subjects will participate in the project.Qualitative interviews will be conducted prior to the initiation of the dairy intake study to explore retroactive and proactive accuracy of recall. Then, each participant will complete daily diary entries for four consecutive weeks. Finally, focus groups will be held after the diary entries are completed to gather process-oriented feedback from the participants. These methods of data collection will provide valuable insights regarding the utility of daily process methods with a diary design for the next stage of NIH proposal.



The Effects of Calorie Restriction on Working Memory in Aged Rats

Mark S. Schmidt, Ph.D., Department of Psychology/Sociology, Columbus State University

Dietary restriction is known to slow several aspects of biological aging processes and to extend the life span. However, its potential for attenuating the deficits associated with cognitive aging has not been extensively studied. The few studies that have been done with animals have utilized maze tasks which have produced mixed results. This pilot study will test the effects of long-term calorie restriction on working memory in aged rats using an automated, delayed-response operant procedure similar to those used in pharmacological research with aged animals.Eight old rats (18 months) and 4 young rats (3 months) will be tested. Half of the old rats will have been fed a calorie-restricted diet since 16 weeks of age. It is hypothesized that calorie restriction will attenuate the working memory deficits observed in the old rats. It is anticipated that the delayed response operant procedure will more clearly reveal these beneficial effects of calorie restriction than have traditional maze task procedures.



Development of a Multidisciplinary, Intensive Course in Caregiving

Ronda C. Talley, Ph.D., MPH, Institute for Human Development, Georgia Southwestern State University

Caregivers and the vital roles they play in providing health care have often been neglected in American society. Our patient focused system, while commendable, tends to overlook the well being of the people who provide the care with the consequence that caregivers themselves are at risk of becoming casualties. An impaired caregiver, then, not only suffers personally, but becomes less able to offer assistance to the person they are caring for. This is problematic and significant when one considers there are 100 million people in America with chronic conditions with estimates that 25 to 54 million of these women and men, young and old, from all socio-economic levels require substantial assistance from caregivers. Due to the aging of the population and advances in medical treatment, the number of persons needing care over long periods of time will continue to increase in the foreseeable future.

In this proposal, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Human Development (RCI), Georgia Southwestern State University, is requesting funds to develop a one-week, intensive, module-based course in care giving. The course will be taught by experts in care giving throughout the University of Georgia System. The course will be multi-disciplinary, drawing on care giving and family support research from medicine, nursing, psychology, sociology, education, business, information technology, multicultural studies, health care, elder studies, leisure and recreation, and law. Ronda C. Talley, PhD, MPH, Executive Director and Professor at the RCI, will serve as course coordinator. The proposed course will be available for both undergraduate and graduate credit, and for continuing education units.

Course development will begin in August 2001 and continue through June 2002.Monthly meetings of Core Faculty will be held each month on the GSW campus and will culminate with the initial course offering in May 2002.The June 2002 meeting will be for evaluation, refinement, and future planning.Funds are requested to offer a small honorarium to course faculty and to pay travel costs of non-GSW faculty to attend course development meetings at GSW in Americus, GA.



The Examination of the Impact of Health on Wealth Depletion of the Elderly

Jinkook Lee, Ph.D., Housing & Consumer Economics, The University of Georgia

With the rising health care costs and increasing number of elderly, there is increasing interest in the impact of the health condition of the elderly on their financial security. However, the multi-disciplinary nature of this issue has hindered research progress in this arena, and thus our limited knowledge calls for a comprehensive study that integrates consumer finance literature with health care literature. This project is a starting point for this effort.

There are significant disparities in health and wealth between minority and Caucasian elders. Given the disparities in health and wealth among different racial/ethnic elders, findings using data on all elders as a homogeneous group can be significantly biased. Therefore, this study examines the impact of health on financial security for each racial/ethnic group.

Specifically, using the Asset and Health Dynamics of the Oldest Old (AHEAD) survey commissioned by the National Institute on Aging, in this study the principal investigator will examine the impact of health on wealth depletion of the elders. The outcome of this project will provide much needed information both for academics and practitioners interested in the welfare of the elderly.The results of this project will also enable the principal investigator to fully develop a comprehensive research proposal to disentangle the dynamics of health and financial security.



Reporting of Functional Outcomes Intended to Activate Behavioral Change in Older Adults

M. Elaine Cress, Ph.D., Exercise Science, The University of Georgia

Remaining functionally independent to the end of life is a high priority for older adults. This priority might motivate older adults to implement positive health habits that can preserve their functional independence. In the previous funding cycle 2000-2001 the Georgia Gerontology Consortium funded a project to develop a reporting system that we called Reporting Intended to Activate or RITA. A reporting form was derived from the two focus groups that were held. We feel one more group is necessary to complete the refinement of the reporting tool. The report as shown in Figure 1, provides numerical information on their performance of each task, qualitative information as to how they did on the tasks relative to people of similar living arrangements, and lifestyle recommendations. The goal of this project was to develop and implement a system for motivating older adults to make life style changes. Practical implementation of this report for testing purposes requires that it be integrated into the web-based data reduction system for the Continuous Scale Physical Functional Performance Test (CS-PFP). The specific aims of this project are to 1) Conduct a focus group to finalize the reporting form 2) Develop a reporting system that in the web-based environment that links to the data reduction program currently being used; To achieve these aims we will ask 20 older adult volunteers who have previously been tested on the CS-PFP to participate in a focus group giving us feedback on the reporting system. An adult education doctoral student and occupational therapist will conduct focus groups to optimize the reporting system at the individual level and to the health care profession.



Diabetes and Hemoglobin A1c in Elderly Nutrition Program Participants

Mary Ann Johnson, Ph.D., Department of Foods and Nutrition, The University of Georgia

The goal of this project is to implement and test the efficacy of a rapid hemoglobin A1c blood test for diabetes screening in older adults in Elderly Nutrition Programs. In this target population, the prevalence of diabetes exceeds 30% and many are unaware that they have diabetes and have difficulty controlling their blood sugar. It is hypothesized that in these older adults: 1) At baseline, 30% will have diabetes as assessed by the hemoglobin A1c blood test; 2) At baseline, only 10% of those with diabetes will score more than 50% on the Hemoglobin A1c Knowledge Test; 3) After the intervention, at least 30% of those with diabetes will score more than 50% on the Hemoglobin A1c Knowledge Test; and 4) After the intervention, 20% of those with diabetes will improve their hemoglobin A1c concentrations to 7% or less.

The advantages of a rapid hemoglobin A1c blood test are that it can be administered in a community setting and the results can be received and discussed with the client within minutes. In our other community studies in the target population, we have found that providing clinical information, such as heel bone density information, is very meaningful to these elders and that they share this information with their physicians. The expected outcomes are that we will identify undiagnosed diabetes, improve knowledge about the hemoglobin A1c test, and improve hemoglobin A1c concentrations in a significant number of these elders. This study will allow us to collect pilot data on our ability to use the hemoglobin A1c test in a community setting and to calculate power for use in larger studies that evaluate the effects on glucose control of a wide variety of interventions (e.g., behavioral modification, dietary changes, functional foods, and/or nutritional supplements).



Student Seed Grants



Problem Solving Strategies on the World Wide Web: Are There Age-Related Differences?

Aideen J. Stronge, Department of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology

Information search and retrieval on the Web is an example of a complex "real-world" problem-solving task. The present study proposes to examine the problem-solving strategies of 16 younger and 16 older adult moderately experienced Web users.There will be two parts to this study: a structured interview and search tasks varying in complexity. There are three specific questions that this study will examine: (1) will varying the level of complexity in this task produce age-related differences in strategy use? (2) will there be age-related differences in the number of strategies mentioned and/or used?, and (3) if younger and older adults have similar amounts of experience with this new technology, will there be age-related differences in performance? Based on evidence from research investigating age-related differences in performance, it is hypothesized that varying the complexity of the task will not affect older adults' strategy use and that older adults will mention and use fewer search strategies than younger adults. It also is hypothesized that due to age-related declines in cognition and the nature of this task (i.e., high reliance on cognitive abilities such as working memory), experience with this task will not eliminate age-related differences in problem-solving performance.



Reviewing Website Usability Guidelines for Older Adults: An Empirical Approach

Chris Mayhorn, Ph.D., School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology

In today's society, adults over the age of 60 are increasingly aware of the benefits of using the Internet to converse with others and to search for information. Now, more than ever before, the ability to use the World Wide Web holds great potential for an older population interested in remaining independent and active.Unfortunately, this potential is highly dependent on the usability of the Web.Because Website designers and Human Factors professionals are often unaware of the special needs of older adults, the ability to effectively use the Web is hindered. To remedy this problem, a number of Website usability guidelines have been developed to make Websites more senior-friendly (Hawthorn, 2000; Jones & Bayen, 1998; Mead, Lamson, & Rogers, in press; Morrell, Holt, Dailey, Feldman, & Mayhorn, 2001). The purpose of this experiment is to empirically test the validity of these usability guidelines to determine if universal accessibility is a goal that can be accomplished through design. Usability testing will be conducted with sixty young and sixty older participants who will attempt to search an unaltered Website or a senior-friendly Website specifically designed using the Web usability guidelines previously mentioned. Findings from this experiment should inform the Human Factors community of the utility of existing Website usability guidelines and help to shape the next generation of guidelines by identifying the most effective design modifications.



Aging and Judgments of Learning: A Dual-Process Approach

Karen A. Daniels, Department of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology

Anecdotal evidence suggests that metacognitive judgments, such as Judgments of Learning (JOLs), play an important role in learning and memory. However, prior research has tended to find relatively small correlations between JOLs and later performance.

Moreover, research examining age differences in JOL/performance relations have produced conflicting results, with some studies reporting age-related declines in monitoring abilities, and others reporting age invariance. The present proposal explores the hypothesis that both the small correlations, and the mixed results with respect to age, stem from a failure to separate memory-test performance into its controlled/explicit and automatic/implicit components. I propose to use the Remember-Know procedure to separate these two forms of memory (Tulving, 1985).The separate Remember and Know judgments will then be used to analyze the relationship between JOLs and performance on recognition (Experiment 1) and cued-recall (Experiment 2) tasks.

Assuming that individuals only have access to consciously controlled memory processes when making JOLs, we should find higher correlations between JOLs and Remember judgments than between JOLs and Know judgments, or between JOLs and overall memory performance (which contains a mixture of the two kinds of judgments). More importantly, separating memory performance into controlled and automatic components should allow a better assessment of age-related changes in metacognitive monitoring, as well as clarify the mixed results obtained in previous studies. It is hypothesized that young and older adults will show equivalent correlations between JOLs and Remember judgments, despite the fact that older, as compared to younger, adults will exhibit lower correlations between JOLs and overall performance (given the older Adult's greater reliance on automatic processes). A final hypothesis to be tested is that JOLs will predict overall recognition performance better than overall recall performance, given that the former is more strongly supported by automatic retrieval processes.



Illusions of Familiarity and Aging:Fluency Effects on Young and Older Adults' Recognition Judgments

Colleen M. Parks, Department of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology

In studies investigating age-related differences in memory illusions and memory-based biases on judgments, older adults have been shown to be more susceptible to various biasing factors (e.g., repetition) than young adults. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the effects of contextual biases (i.e., factors present only at the time a judgment is made) on judgments made by older adults. Thus, although research has shown that younger adults can be influenced by contextual factors, it is unclear whether age-related differences exist for these effects. The aim of the proposed research is to investigate contextual biases on young and older adults' recognition judgments. Tow experiments are proposed to this end. Experiment 1 is designed to replicate previous experiments conducted by Whittlesea, Jacoby, and Girard 1990) and Whittlesesa (1993) in order to investigate illusions of familiarity as a function of perceptual factors in young and older adults. Experiment 2 will extend this investigation to another memory illusion - the revelation effect.The revelation effect refers to a bias to judge a recognition test target as old if that item is exposed gradually, as opposed to when it is presented intact. Although younger adults are susceptible to this bias, recent findings have shown that older adults are not (Prull, Light, Collett, Kennison, 1998). Experiment 2 explores an ease-of-processing explanation of this effect with young and older adults as another way of determining whether contextual biases exert the same influence on the two age groups.



Age Differences in Memory Support for Computer-generated Animation

Monica Huff, Cognitive/Experimental Psychology, The University of Georgia

The purpose of this study is to investigate any age-related differences in cognitive processing of computer-generated animation. Computer animation has been used increasingly in demonstrations, tutorials, instructions, educational materials, and simulations to educate people on various functions and procedures.Animated demonstrations are viewed as a way to potentially speed up and aid the learning process. The use of "Getting Started" tours, online help, and tutorials has been increasing in commercial applications and Web sites. However, the added benefits of using animation to increase learning and understanding are still questionable, even though many participants state preferring the animated presentation style (Harrison, 1995; Palmiter & Elkerton, 1991; Payne, Chesworth, & Hill, 1992). The processing requirements for viewing animation rather than graphics have not been studied adequately for an older adult population. With an increasing aging population and the increasing need to train and re-train older adults on the use of computers and technology-driven applications, research involving older adults in this area is essential. The hypothesis being tested in Experiment 1 is that older adults will benefit more from the use of animation. The hypothesis being tested in Experiment 2 is that older adults will benefit more from the step-by step text instructions and animated graphics, because of the reduced demands on working memory and the added spatial integration the animated graphics provide. Through understanding the basic cognitive differences in older adults' and younger adults' processing of animation, it is thought that better training support and learning tools can be created for both populations.



Validation of Lower Extremity Strength in Older Adult Women

Erick McCarthy, M.S., Physical Education & Sport Studies, The University of Georgia

Decreases in lower extremity strength due to advancing age and inactivity are associated with decreases in various physical functional tasks such as rising from a chair, walking, climbing stairs, and balancing. Although several studies have established a relationship between a decline in lower extremity strength and a decline in physical functional ability in older adults, age-related losses in strength do not become a major societal issue until gradual losses of strength start to deteriorate performance of household and personal care tasks leading to an eventual loss of independent living skills.

Recently, several physical functional tests (e.g. chair sit-to-stand, 8 foot Up-and-Go, stair climb, and balance tests) which purport to measure lower extremity strength, coordination, and balance in older adults have been developed. All these physical functional tests require a weight-bearing movement where muscular coordination of the hips, knees, and ankles is necessary. A validity question associated with using these field tests as measures of lower extremity strength, coordination, and balance in older adults is the relationship these field tests have to a valid lower extremity strength criterion test that includes a combination of hip, knee, and ankle strength measures. The purpose of this dissertation study is to validate the chair sit-to-stand test as a measure of lower extremity strength in older adult women using a lower extremity strength composite criterion score consisting of isokinetic hip extensor/flexor, knee extensor/flexor, and ankle plantar/dorsiflexor strength scores. A secondary purpose of this study is to determine the relationship lower extremity strength has on performance of an 8-foot Up-and-Go test, a stair climb test, and a one-legged balance test in older adult women.

It is hypothesized that a large proportion of variance in chair sit-to-stand, 8 foot Up-and-Go, stair climb, and one-legged balance performance can be explained by multiple regression models using a lower extremity strength composite score consisting of hip, knee, and ankle strength scores as the independent variable. The results of this study could substantiate the use of the chair sit-to-stand test as a valid test of lower extremity strength in older adult women and add more information to the body of knowledge on the relationship lower extremity strength may have on performance of the 8 foot Up-and-Go, stair climb, and one-legged balance tests in older adult women. The information generated from this study could prove useful to gerontology researchers and practitioners interested in utilizing cost effective, easy to administer tests in identifying lower extremity weakness in older adult women, and in identifying possible coordination and balance deficits in this population. In addition, this study could provide useful information for planning exercise strategies that could prevent or reduce physical frailty and disability related to leg strength and balance deficits in older adult women.



Do Aging Genes Always Extend Longevity?Testing Aging Genes in Novel Genetic Backgrounds

Christine C. Spencer, Genetics Department, The University of Georgia

Researchers have recently discovered numerous aging genes that will hopefully have human homologues. Most aging researchers isolated aging genes in standard laboratory strains of model organisms such as Drosophila.These aging genes may interact with other genes in their genetic background, and so they need to be tested in various genetic backgrounds to guarantee that their ability to increase life span is not merely strain-specific. Specifically, they must be tested in wild-caught lines because wild-caught flies are significantly longer lived than standard laboratory flies. I will test the Drosophila aging gene Methuselah, which increases life span by 35% in the standard strain from which it was isolated, on several wild-caught genetic backgrounds to see if it also increases the longevity of wild-caught flies. I will also look for variation in the ability of Methuselah to increase life span in different backgrounds. My results will inform how insolated aging genes behave when surrounded by genes in a novel background. It is essential that researchers understand how aging genes interact with their genetic background, as homologous aging genes in humans may eventually extend human longevity. If LAGs do not extend longevity similarly for different genetic combinations or backgrounds, then we will need to design a new approach to defining and locating aging genes that are not background specific.

Back to Top