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BCTR co-sponsored talk: Linda Waite, Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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Reconceptualizing Health Among Older Adults: Expanding the Medical Model
Linda Waite, University of Chicago

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
1:15 PM - 2:45 PM
153 MVR Hall


Contemporary medicine is organized around diseases of particular organ systems such as the cardiovascular system (heart disease) or energy metabolism (diabetes). This model tends to ignore health behaviors, cognition, mental health, physical functioning, and sensory systems. We ask in this project how a categorization of the health of older adults looks under the medical model and how it differs under an expanded definition of health. We use a rich and varied set of indicators of dimensions of health to paint a detailed picture of the health of older adults and to define classes of older adults by their constellations of health characteristics. We do this first using the medical model of organ system dyregulation and then using the richer set of dimensions. We find that very different health classes of older adult emerge under the two models. We then predict subsequent health events using class membership and find it to be a powerful predictor. In addition, some previously unrecognized early indicators of later poor health appear, and other indicators thought to be strong predictors of future health declines show themselves to be fairly benign or even positive.

This talk is co-sponsored by the Cornell Population Center, the Department of Policy Analysis & Management, and the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

Linda Waite is Lucy Flower Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago. She is Principal Investigator of The National Social Life, Health and Aging Study (NSHAP). She is co-author, with Frances Goldscheider, of New Families, No Families?: The Transformation of the American Home (University of California Press, 1991), winner of the Duncan Award from the American Sociological Association. She is also author, with Maggie Gallagher, of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially (Doubleday, 2000), which won the 2000 Outstanding Book Award from the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. She is past President of the Population Association of America and recipient of a MERIT Award from the National Institute on Aging. Her current research focuses on the link between social connections, social isolation and health at older ages.

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