The social support networks of older adults in continuing care retirement communities
The goal of the current research was to apply previously developed methods of assessing social support networks, social isolation, and perceived quality of relations with a relatively unstudied population: Independent Living residents within a continuous care retirement community (CCRC). This population was of interest because of the lack of information known about their motivations for moving into a CCRC, as well as their social support networks. Twenty-four personal interviews were carried out with residents at two CCRC campuses, one rural and one urban. Participants identified "push" and "pull" motivations for moving, and these motivations were relatively independent of pressures from friends or family. Their social convoys were measured using the Antonucci Hierarchical Mapping Technique, and they had an average of 23.92 network members (SD = 15.23), which was much larger than results found in previous studies. The majority of social convoy members listed were family members, followed by community friends. Residents also had generally positive quality of relations with friends, family, CCRC staff, and fellow residents, and the majority (92%) were not considered socially isolated or at risk for social isolation. Seven different network types were identified in the sample based on patterns of contact with different network groups: diverse, family-focused, non-institution, non-family, non-friend, institutional-focused, and restricted. Participant network types and isolation level were compared to determine which network type had the best outcomes. Results based on these interviews show that larger networks are moderately associated with less social isolation (r = -.26), and that only 8% of participants were a high risk for, or are considered, socially isolated. Implications and recommendations for further research are discussed, as well as relevance to current theory.
Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology