Community Living and Health Services Utilization among the Aging Services Network Population

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By 2050, the number of older adults will increase from 67 million to 111 million, or roughly 28 percent of the total U.S. population. Age is a principal predictor of physical health status as well as functional and cognitive limitation. As the aging population grows, so too will the demand for long-term services and supports (LTSS) and healthcare services. Despite this intersection, LTSS and healthcare systems are highly disconnected. The Aging Services Network, authorized and partially financed by the Older Americans Act (OAA), may play an important role in an emerging trend toward integrating services. Yet, OAA research is lacking.

    Existing OAA research faces several obstacles, including handling program variation resulting from a decentralized Aging Services Network, identifying non-user comparison groups for OAA study samples, and limited utility of national datasets. Studies often rely on highly descriptive methods, indirect comparisons to the general population of older adults, or state-restricted analysis. This dissertation addresses several gaps in the research. 

    The first study aims to identify factors associated with community tenure and participation among low-income elderly living in subsidized housing. The research is grounded in conceptual frameworks from the World Health Organization. In-depth interviews and focus groups are used to explore these associations among elderly HUD building residents in Prince George's County, Maryland. The second study aims to identify multilevel predictors of OAA Title III services participation. This study develops a conceptual framework based on the Andersen Behavioral Model of Health Services Use, and uses a merged data set from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study with geographic data and relevant state policies. The third study further examines the relationship between OAA Title III services participation and patterns of healthcare utilization.

This dissertation research provides evidence for the importance of OAA Title III services, including for elderly HUD beneficiaries. Findings from multivariate regression analyses provide evidence for (1) county level targeting criteria used to measure LTSS need and direct OAA Title III funding, (2) substantial influence of Medicaid on access to OAA Title III services, and (3) changes in mix of health care services use among OAA Title III services participants over time.