Activity Space, Social Interaction and Health in Later Life

12-1 pm

PSTC Seminar Room 205

Kathleen Cagney, Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago

Whether older adults reside in their long-term communities or move to other locations, the characteristics of the places where they experience the aging process likely have profound consequences for their abilities to adapt to changes such as bereavement, retirement, and ill health, as well as to maintain independence.  The Chicago Health and Activity Space in Real Time (CHART) study will provide one example of the use of new technology to address fundamental questions in social capital accumulation, urban sociology and in life course studies of older adult health.  CHART employs innovative smartphone-based methods for the identification of older adults' activity spaces (i.e., locations of routine activities in daily life). Analyses from 450 adults from ten Chicago neighborhoods who carried smartphones for GPS tracking and ecological momentary assessments (i.e., short phone-based surveys) over seven days will be used to assess, for instance, how the span, characteristics, and experiences of activity spaces vary across socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic groups.  These data are then linked to Chicago-based sensor data, Array of Things, that characterize factors such as air quality. A central goal of this research program is to describe the social and spatial environments in which older adults spend their time (e.g., households, neighborhoods, networks) and how activity space influences social connectedness and health, and may be an unexplored source of inequalities in health.

Kathleen Cagney is a Professor of Sociology and the College and Deputy Dean of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Her work examines social inequality and its relationship to health with a focus on neighborhood, race, and aging and life course. She brings urban sociological theory and methods to research on health, including activity space approaches to characterize a neighborhood's influence. Cagney is Director of the Population Research Center, Co-Director of the Center on the Demography and Economics of Aging, and a Senior Fellow at the National Opinion Research Center.  She also directs the University of Chicago's Health Services Research Training Program.

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