July 2008 AJPH Highlights: Caring for the Oldest Old

Article ID: 541053

Released: 22-May-2008 10:40 AM EDT

Source Newsroom: American Public Health Association (APHA)

Newswise — The article below will be published online May 29, 2008, at 4 p.m. (ET) by the American Journal of Public Health under "First Look" at http://www.ajph.org/first_look.shmtl, and they are currently scheduled to appear in the July 2008 print issue of the Journal. "First Look" articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association, www.apha.org, and is available at www.ajph.org. To stay up to date on the latest in public health research, sign up for new Journal content e-mail alerts at http://www.ajph.org/subscriptions/etoc.shtml>ck=nck.

Social connections delay memory loss among elderly Americans

Using a nationally representative sample of U.S. individuals age 50 and over, researchers examined whether an individual's level of social connectedness predicted memory change over six years. Memory was measured by immediate and delayed recall of a 10-word list. The mean memory score declined from 11.0 in 1998 to 10.0 in 2004. Higher baseline social integration predicted slower memory decline, with memory among the least socially integrated declining at twice the rate of the most integrated.

"Being in the highest level of social integration ameliorated more than half of the age-related decline in memory"¦Our results suggest that increasing social integration may be an important component of efforts to protect older Americans from memory decline. Future research should focus on identifying the specific aspects of social integration most important for preserving memory," the study's authors stated. [From: "Effects of Social Integration on Preserving Memory Function in a Nationally Representative U.S. Elderly Population," ].

Multilevel community-based intervention significantly increases interest in influenza vaccination in hard-to-reach populations

Researchers examined whether the work of community-based intervention increased interest in influenza vaccination among hard-to-reach individuals in urban settings. Intervention activities were conducted in eight racially and ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged locations in East Harlem and the Bronx. "Hard-to-reach" populations of interest included substance abusers, possible undocumented immigrants, homeless persons, commercial sex workers and persons 65 years and older, including the homebound elderly. Through a five-phased intervention project, the authors of the study concluded that targeting underserved neighborhoods through this approach did significantly increase interest in influenza vaccination.

"In pandemic situations, gaining access to hard-to-reach populations for immunization could be particularly challenging," the study's authors said. "Unvaccinated populations may serve as undetected reservoirs of infection and key bridge populations, thereby limiting the effectiveness of population-wide vaccination efforts." [From: "Project VIVA: A Multilevel Community-Based Intervention to Increase Influenza Vaccination Rates Among Hard-to-Reach Populations in New York City," ].

Increased risk of institutionalization high immediately after the death of a spouse

This study's objective was to analyze how the death of a spouse affects the probability of entering institutionalized care. The 140,902 study participants included Finnish adults aged 65 years or older living with a spouse at the beginning of the study period. Participants were followed for the next five years--from January 1998 to December 2002. Risk of institutionalization was particularly high immediately after the death of a spouse, demonstrating the importance of loss of social and instrumental support.

"These results provide indirect evidence of the effect of the loss of social and instrumental support on the risk of institutionalization," the study's authors stated. "Furthermore, we found that high levels of education and income did not buffer the effects of bereavement." [From: "Institutionalization of Older Adults After the Death of a Spouse," ].

The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly Journal of the American Public Health Association (APHA), the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health. More information is available at http://www.apha.org.

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