Joan L. Ilardo, PhD, LMSW

Factors influencing the success of community initiatives that address aging issues

My dissertation research relates to the factors that influence the success of community initiatives and partnerships addressing issues regarding aging of the community’s residents. US demographic trends project that the proportion of older adults in the population will continue to increase substantially, requiring communities to modify how they approach accommodating the needs of older adults, their families and caregivers.

This research looks at whether there are discernible factors that propel individuals and groups (actors) in a community to recognize the benefits of promoting successful aging for their older residents. It examines the ways in which these actors garner the support of other individuals and groups in their communities who are willing to work together to accomplish a set of goals. The research explores factors such as the service continuum, presence of advocates, or precipitating events to ascertain whether communities that embark on partnerships that address aging issues have identifiable commonalities.

The literature about community partnerships posits that current aging partnerships have had the support of foundation funding. The premise for my research is that every community eventually will have to contend with aging issues due to national demographic trends, and that most communities will be compelled to face this challenge without the benefit of an infusion of external funding, technical assistance, and expertise.

The long-term goal of this research is thus to develop a toolkit for those communities that do not have external resources available to them to facilitate the initial steps modeled by successful communities. The toolkit will demonstrate methods communities can use to develop these initial steps into a strategic plan that will attract the attention of decision makers in the community. The primary actors will then be able to recruit a core group or steering committee that can prepare a strategic plan for developing and nurturing a successful, enduring community partnership for older adults that promotes successful aging and aging in place.