This is a list of information and links pertaining to research projects currently being conducted by local universities and other groups. To add to this list, please contact AustinUP at info@austinup.org.

The University of Texas at Austin
Couples Wanted for Relationship Experiences Across the Lifespan (REAL) Project
How do our relationships change as we grow older? Unfortunately, most research on marriage and dating has focused almost exclusively on the relationships of young adults. Thus, interventions designed to help people have happier, healthier relationships are being informed by studies conducted on a limited segment of the population. This project, which is funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, will compare older and younger couples, both married and dating, to examine potential age-related changes in how couples approach relationship challenges, as well as the implications of different coping strategies for emotional and physical health. The study is expected to enroll a total of 300 couples. Currently, we are seeking couples age 60+ who either (1) are in a dating relationship or (2) have been married at least 10 years. Eligible couples can receive up to $150 as compensation for their time.  Please visit the Relationship Experiences Across the Lifespan Project (REAL) website or contact the team at 512-475-7527 or austinmarriageproject@gmail.com for more information. Lisa Neff, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, and Jennifer Beer, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychology, are the lead investigators of the project.

The Adult Family Project
The University of Texas at Austin will receive a $2.4 million grant over the next five years from the National Institute on Aging to study how social interactions improve the health of older adults. Past research on the links between social interactions and health has been largely based on people’s self-reported physical activity, cognitive activity and social interactions. But people tend to overestimate their physical activity. This study will compare self-evaluations with actual in-the-moment measures. A group of 300 adults over the age of 70 from across Austin will participate in this study starting in August, 2016. Participants will start with a self-evaluation of physical activity and social interactions, as well as a test of cognitive abilities. Then, they will wear small, comfortable devices that assess their physical activity, sleep, and daily environments. Researchers hope to learn how older adults’ daily experiences translate into their emotional, cognitive, and physical heath. Karen Fingerman, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and the Department of Psychology, is the lead investigator. Dr. Fingerman also collaborates with The Aging Network, a group of researchers at UT working on aging-related issues.

Telehealth Treatments for Depression with Low-Income Homebound Seniors 
Namkee G. Choi, Ph.D., Professor and Louis and Ann Wolens Centennial Chair in Gerontology in the UT School of Social Work, is leading a 4.5-year mental health services research project that is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities ($2.2 million) and St. David’s Foundation. The study aims to compare clinical and cost effectiveness and budget impact of two aging-service integrated, tele-delivered depression treatment modalities for low-income disabled/homebound older adults aged 50 years and older: 1) problem-solving therapy (PST) by licensed clinicians, and 2) self-care management (SCM) support by trained lay mental health workers/advisors. Due to their mobility impairment, lack of transportation, and financial strain, low-income older adults have difficulty accessing evidence-based psychosocial treatments for their depression. The access is further limited by the current and projected shortage of licensed geriatric mental health clinicians and the costs of deploying highly trained professionals in these older adults’ homes for in-home therapy sessions. As shown in other countries, a more plausible option for widespread real-world adoption and sustainability may indeed be utilization of trained lay mental health workers. In collaboration with Meals on Wheels and More (where treatment providers are located), Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area, Texas Nephrology Social Workers Association, Family Eldercare, and other aging service agencies in Austin, the study is expected to enroll 350+ low-income, racially diverse homebound seniors in the next four years. Data from this study will help aging-service providers and funders assess respective strengths of two telehealth treatment modalities and improve access to evidence-based mental health services for a rapidly growing, underserved population of older adults. For more information, please contact Dr. Choi at 512-232-9590, 512-232-0604, or nchoi@austin.utexas.edu.

Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University has received a $2.7 million grant to study how neighborhood design affects the health of adults. While this 5-year study is not exclusively for seniors, it will include some participants aged 55+. Eligible participants must be older than 25 with plans to move to Austin’s Mueller neighborhood in the near future, or be living in the Austin Metropolitan Area and not planning to move in the next 1.5 years. Marcia Ory Ph.D., M.P.H., a Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health professor, will lead the project, as well as Texas A&M College of Architecture professors Xuemei Zhu, Ph.D., and Chanam Lee, Ph.D. More information about this study can be found on the project website.

LBJ School of Public Affairs
Approximately 18.7 percent of the U.S. population live with disabilities, according to 2010 census figures. That is an estimated 56 million people. The state of Texas, Travis County, and the City of Austin mirror these national trends and face additional challenges resulting from a rapidly aging and growing minority population. Jacqueline Angel, Ph.D., professor of Public Affairs and Sociology, is leading a Policy Research Project to evaluate options in aligning affordable senior housing with community-based services for the most vulnerable older Austinites.