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Research

The overarching mission of our lab is to promote a secure old age for all individuals, especially older adults and others with heightened vulnerability due to their demographic or health conditions. We pursue this mission with work across the life course, in three primary areas detailed on this website: healthcare systems/services, elder abuse, and economic security.

Our research considers a range of issues in a life-course context, for example: how experiences as youth lead to elder abuse; how intimate partner violence in adulthood turns into elder abuse; how early-life circumstances lead to higher levels of worklife income; how minimizing earnings and savings disparities between working-age adults can enhance economic security in retirement; and how a lifetime’s accumulation of economic resources can be supplemented in old age  to enable individuals to receive care in their preferred locations. 

Healthcare Systems and Services

Once older adults progress to needing support with general functioning and activities of daily living, they often turn to the formalized long-term services and supports (LTSS) system, including both institutional and home and community-based care. The design and delivery of LTSS across these settings tend to focus on promoting quality of life for the most vulnerable elders, including those with chronic illness, disability, cognitive impairment, and/or economic insecurity.

The current research undertaken by our lab regarding the LTSS system is funded in part by the State of California and in part by The SCAN Foundation. Projects include designing a universal assessment for California’s home and community-based services (HCBS) and identifying the patterns and predictors of people who transition out of nursing facilities. Former research studies have included several evaluation studies, including: wellness interventions among frail older adults, models of integrated health care, and the role of care management in reducing costs and improving outcomes

Elder Abuse

The prominence of elder abuse in the national discourse has been increasing with the dramatic growth of the U.S. older adult population. In pace with this new attention, our lab has accelerated its long-standing research agenda in elder abuse. Early research defining financial exploitation and looking at the role of capacity has been expanded recently, with multiple new grants awarded and several new projects undertaken.
Our recent elder abuse work has been undertaken with support from multiple funders, including the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute on Aging, and the Archstone Foundation. Current projects include:

1) an evaluation of the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center and the elder abuse forensic center model more broadly;

2) characterization of the forensic markers of alleged physical abuse among the older adult population; and

3) a description of fraudulent practices and a characterization of the victims of fraud.

Economic Security

Changes in the national retirement support system (e.g., Social Security, pensions, 401(k) accounts) and the growth of a diverse aging demographic have placed economic security of older adults squarely on the policy agenda. Our lab has long been involved in research around financial supports in old age, most notably the Daily Money Management approach. More recent research has seized on another demographic trend in studying economic security: the racial/ethnic diversification—and especially Latinization—of the U.S. population.

Our current work in economic security, part of a ten-year collaboration funded by the Ford Foundation, has focused on racial/ethnic minority disparities and the role of U.S. citizenship in economic resources across the life course. Current research attempts to discern the roles of race/ethnicity, citizenship status, and immigrant documentation status as separate drivers of income disparity as well as growth in income over the life course, using a wide variety of nationally representative aging surveys and Census Bureau data sources.