Community-Engaged Research on Social Capital and Older Adults’ Health: Lessons Learned

Main Article Content

Ronica N. Rooks
Sarah McCarthy
Britanie Graybeal
Stephen Griffin


Most adults in the United States prefer to age in their own homes and communities. However, many ageing-in-place models rely on expensive external services, negatively affecting access by lower socioeconomic status (SES) and other vulnerable groups. This article documents two pilot projects conducted by a community-academic partnership that examined associations between social capital, ageing in community, and health among older adults. The first project explored the association between social capital and health across community SES levels. The second project explored one type of social capital, timebanking, and its association with health. We highlight here our lessons learned from these community-engaged research (CER) projects: (1) Our partnership needed to improve our study design and data collection by enhancing our recruitment strategies, community site partnerships, survey instrument and data matching, and research team workload allocation issues. (2) We should have validated our instruments for use with older adults who had mild cognitive and visual impairments, acknowledged how community SES differences influenced our data collection, and included more research assistant support during our community meetings. (3) We would have benefited from protocol development for recording and responding to issues raised by participants. Our projects also led us to relational insights, such as reinforcing the need to foster clear communication across team members, involving community advisory boards earlier in the CER process, seeking network input on research strategies to meet older adults’ needs, and developing plans to sustain long-term relationships. We hope these lessons learned are useful to other community-engaged researchers.

Article Details

Practice-based articles (Non-refereed)
Author Biographies

Sarah McCarthy

Community partner, but no longer with Neighborhood Resource Center

Britanie Graybeal, Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Littleton



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