Research Snapshots

These are research highlights taken from our newsletter, the Life Course Ledger. Sign up to receive the LCC's monthly newsletter by emailing [email protected].


To Speed or Not To Speed

Thematic analysis of American driving narratives

Speeding is a major cause of traffic fatalities in the United States. Existing data show drivers usually tend to speed less as they age. LCC Members Colleen Peterson and Joseph Gaugler wanted to understand why speeding behavior changes over the life course. 

By asking a national sample of U.S. drivers about their driving behaviors and how they have changed over time, Peterson and Gaugler were able to identify common themes. They found that drivers often deliberately choose to speed, and sometimes don’t consider it a risky behavior, trusting in their own mastery of driving skills. However, as they age, a majority of participants report speeding less and less, citing more concern for family members and others using the road. Other themes that emerged include individual cognitive factors and environmental contexts. 

From a policy perspective, the findings indicate the most effective way to reduce speeding may be a multi-pronged approach. Combining messaging that highlights safety, how speeding reduces driver control with road design, and law enforcement strategies may be the best way to improve roadway safety for all. 

See the full publication: 

Peterson, C. M. & Gaugler, J. E. To speed or not to speed: Thematic analysis of American driving narratives. Journal of Safety Research. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2021.04.005

MAY 2021

Indigenous Cultural-Understandings Of Alzheimer’s – Research And Engagement (ICARE) Project 

Kristen Jacklin  |  Associate Director of Memory Keepers

There is an urgent need to address the increasing burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) in American Indian and First Nations populations. Life Course Center Member Kristen Jacklin received new funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to create a foundational ethnographic database of lived experience of ADRD from these communities to inform the creation of culturally appropriate and safe approaches to improve diagnostics, care, and outreach. 

ADRD rates are approximately three times higher among American Indian and First Nations populations, with a 10-year earlier onset, compared to majority populations. Higher rates of co-morbidities and limited access to social, economic, and health resources increase Indigenous health disparities. Culture and community context influence Indigenous peoples’ experience with dementia and culturally grounded approaches/resources increase awareness and improve outcomes. Currently, there is little information to guide culturally appropriate efforts to address ADRD. 

This project will use community-based participatory research, to engage Indigenous communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario. The project will include cultural understandings of ADRD, experiences with diagnosis and care, and community strengths and challenges. Information will be collected using participant observation and semi-structured in-depth interviews with people with dementia, caregivers, and healthy seniors. The qualitative analytic approach incorporates both biomedical and Indigenous understandings of ADRD. 

Learn more about the Memory Keepers project by visiting their website and following them on Twitter. Watch the recording of a related seminar from Kristen Jacklin.


Minnesota’s Assisted Living Report Card

Tetyana Shippee, Odichinma Akosionu, Tricia Skarphol, and Timothy Beebe

Innovation in Aging

Concerns around assisted living (AL) quality in Minnesota prompted passage of new legislation in 2019 and provided funding for the development of an Assisted Living Report Card. LCC members Tetyana Shippee and Timothy Beebe and colleagues presented results from the first two phases of this project. The first phase involved a national literature review of quality measures and technical advisory panels to understand the types of domains and indicators for AL quality that are measured. Nine quality domains were identified. The second phase focused on state-wide stakeholder engagement to determine priority rankings for nine AL quality domains and indicators identified. Quality of life, staff quality and resident safety were the top three domains across all stakeholder groups. The state will implement surveys of AL resident quality of life and family satisfaction as mandated by the legislature, but findings indicate that other aspects of quality such as staff-related measures and resident safety, are also important to address.


Meeting The Social Needs Of Older Adults In Rural Areas 

Carrie Henning-Smith - Deputy Director, Rural Health Research Center

Social isolation is associated with health risks, and older adults in rural areas are especially at risk. Life Course Center member Carrie Henning-Smith looks at the unique risks faced by this demographic group. Barriers such as transportation, limited economic resources, less access to broadband internet and cellular connectivity, and restricted access to health care all play a role. Meeting interpersonal social needs is intertwined with providing other care needs. Health care professionals should collaborate with community partners to reduce isolation and loneliness. Read the full article on the JAMA Health Forum.


Shippee leads study to improve quality of home and community-based services for people with dementia, forms unique partnership with ADvancing States

The research led by Associate Professor Tetyana Shippee includes documenting trends in the services used or desired by clients and the factors related to how satisfied they are with their care.

The population of people age 65 and older in the United States is quickly growing with increasing numbers of them needing long-term services and supports (LTSS). LTSS involve a variety of services designed to meet a person’s health or personal care needs to help them live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own. Most older adults who need LTSS prefer to remain at home rather than receive care in nursing homes. Those living at home can use a number of LTSS services, including home health care, hospice services, meal delivery, housekeeping and other assistance, known as home and community-based services (HCBS). The University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) is launching a new project to understand the scope of HCBS services used and desired across the United States. The project will also determine client and state-level factors that influence satisfaction with HCBS care and how it varies for people with diagnosed with dementia.

Associate Professor Tetyana Shippee is the principal investigator of the study and has teamed up with Assistant Professor Eric Jutkowitz (PhD ‘17) from Brown University as a co-principal investigator. Shippee is a national expert on promoting quality of life for older adults and leads numerous studies on measuring and improving quality of life and well-being among older adults receiving LTSS.

The study is funded by a four-year grant from the National Institute on Aging providing more than $2 million. Read the full article


Understanding The Effects Of COVID-19 Through A Life Course Lens

Phyllis Moen and Jeylan T. Mortimer

The Covid-19 pandemic is shaking fundamental assumptions about the human life course in societies around the world. In this essay, we draw on our collective expertise to illustrate how a life course perspective can make critical contributions to understanding the pandemic’s effects on individuals, families, and populations.


Understanding The Effects Of COVID-19 Through A Life Course Lens

Phyllis Moen and Jeylan T. Mortimer

The Covid-19 pandemic is shaking fundamental assumptions about the human life course in societies around the world. In this essay, we draw on our collective expertise to illustrate how a life course perspective can make critical contributions to understanding the pandemic’s effects on individuals, families, and populations.

MAY 2020

New research looks at the assets and unmet needs of diverse, older adults 

The United States is rapidly diversifying and aging. Understanding the existing assets as well as the challenges and unmet needs of this demographic will become increasingly important to policy makers and service providers. 


LCC Member Julia Drew and her co-author, Dongjuan Xu, an assistant professor of nursing at Purdue University, study the distribution, trends, and consequences of injuries and falls for older adults to understand the consequences of aging for population health in the U.S. Injuries and falls are preventable, yet common, and can lead to severe consequences. They have two published papers on this subject and one under review. Read their work in Injury Prevention and The Gerontologist.


The IPUMS International team, led by LCC Members Lara Cleveland, Matt Sobek, and Steve Ruggles, has received a new grant from the National Institute of Aging (NIA) to expand the scope of the IPUMS database and create powerful new tools for analyzing population aging. With $3.1 million in funding from NIA, the team plans to add 40 censuses and 100 million cases from Global South countries to the IPUMS database. These data will include aging-related individual-level variables and aging-related contextual variables.

The United Nations projects that the population aged 60 and older will grow by more than 50% over the next 15 years. Most of the growth of the older population will take place in the Global South, which will include 80% of the older population by 2050. The growth of the older population in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia is occurring far more rapidly than it did in the developed countries of Europe and North America. The extraordinarily rapid aging of the developing world represents one of the most significant demographic transformations in history, with profound consequences for disease and disability, intergenerational relations, work and retirement, geographic mobility, and other economic and demographic processes. This database will provide a resource of unprecedented power for understanding the effects of public policies, social institutions, and environmental conditions on the health, well-being, and functioning of people over the life course and in their later years across the developing world.


MPC Member Elizabeth Wrigley-Field has been named the 2019-2020 Fesler-Lampert Chair in Aging Studies—a one-year appointment awarded to a faculty member to support research in aging that enhances and develops their own career in addition to the University’s scholarly capacity in aging science. To learn more about Dr. Wrigley-Field’s research and goals for her year as Fesler-Lampert Chair, visit the award page. There will be a recognition event on Wednesday, September 25th, from 5:00-8:00 PM. RSVP here.


Joseph E. Gaugler, PhD, is the Robert L. Kane Endowed Professor in Long-Term Care & Aging in the Division of Health Policy and Management and School of Public Health. Dr. Gaugler's research examines the sources and effectiveness of long-term care for persons with Alzheimer's disease and other chronic conditions. An applied gerontologist, Dr. Gaugler's interests include Alzheimer's disease and long-term care, the longitudinal ramifications of family care for persons with dementia and other chronic conditions, and the effectiveness of community-based and psychosocial services for older adults with dementia and their caregiving families. Dr. Gaugler was recently profiled in the Star Tribune for his work on reigniting the launch of a universitywide Center on Aging. Read the full article here.

MAY 2019

Kaspar Burger is currently a Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota. Kaspar conducts research and teaches courses at the intersection of sociology of education, educational psychology, and children's rights studies. Dr. Burger is working with Dr. Jeylan Mortimer on research which he recently presented at a Life Course Demography, Aging, and Health Workshop under the title "Self-Esteem, Economic Self-Efficacy and Status Attainment: Evidence from a Panel Study of Three Generations." This work is part of a larger research project called “Micro-, Meso-, and Macro-Level Determinants of Educational Inequalities: An Interdisciplinary Approach.”

Dr. Burger also has a forthcoming article, “The socio-spatial dimension of educational inequality: A comparative European analysis” in Studies in Educational Evaluation. To learn more about his work, visit his profiles on ResearchGate and Scopus.

APRIL 2019

LCC Member, Health Policy and Management Assistant Professor, and Deputy Director of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center Carrie Henning-Smith has a new article in the Journal of Applied Gerontology looking at the relationship between living alone and self-rated health. Her study found that middle-aged adults living alone had higher odds of poor/fair self-rated health compared with adults living with others. However, older adults had significantly lower odds of reporting poor/fair health than their counterparts living with others. This research points toward changes in policies and programs designed to support the growing population of people living alone. Read the full article here.

MARCH 2019

LCC Director Phyllis Moen and LCC Associate Director Sarah Flood have received a new NSF grant to examine the experiences of the Boomer Generation as they navigate later adulthood at a time when existing blueprints are outdated. Their study will provide important insights into who is or isn’t working longer and who is experiencing early exits or churn in the form of moving in and out of paid work. They assess the timing of exits and re-entries and whether working longer matters for the financial sustainability of individuals and their families or whether age-graded safety nets are more effective. Scientific advances from this work will inform the development of interventions promoting possibilities for working longer as well as for unpaid community engagement. This much needed research is quite timely in light of the extraordinary numbers of Boomer women and men considering or undergoing labor market transitions moving them from social inclusion to social exclusion from the mainstream of society.


In a forthcoming Demography article, "The long lasting influenza: The impact of fetal stress during the 1918 influenza pandemic on socioeconomic attainment and health in Sweden 1968-2012," LCC Member Jonas Helgertz (research scientist at the ISRDI) and co-authors examine the long-term health and socioeconomic consequences of fetal exposure to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Using several sources of contemporary aggregate statistics, their research shows that affected cohorts displayed only very limited signs of fetal health or socioeconomic selection. In examining the long-term consequences, they used longitudinal full-population data for Sweden, containing precise individual-level information on time and place of birth allowing us to gauge pandemic exposure with a high degree of precision. The results suggest no effects on socioeconomic outcomes (only examined for males), and with consistent but modest health effects (through mortality and hospitalization) for both men and women.


Fang YuLCC member and professor in the School of Nursing, has been awarded two NIA grants to study Alzheimer's disease (AD). Because no drugs have yet been identified that can prevent, treat, or even slow down the progression of AD, her research focuses on combining aerobic exercise and cognitive training to improve reasoning and memory. If effective, such a program could be investigated further to assess its promise for preventing or delaying the onset of AD. Her second study will determine if 6 months of aerobic exercise will affect the decline in cognition and hippocampal volume in older adults with mild-to-moderate AD. This study could potentially reduce the public health impact of AD by providing an effective treatment, delaying nursing home placement, increasing physical function, improving the quality of life, and curbing the prohibitive health care costs for the growing population with AD and their 15 million family caregivers.