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Funded Research

The Great Smoky Mountains Study of Rural Aging

This project proposes data collection to augment the longitudinal Great Smoky Mountains Study (GSMS) to create a national data resource, the Great Smoky Mountains Study of Rural Aging (GSMS-RA), for the study of early determinants of the aging experience in a rural context. This proposal builds on a study that is already distinctive: community-representative design; repeated in-depth assessments across multiple developmental periods; high retention (82.5% interviewed at wave 12/age 30); longitudinal banked bloodspots available for assaying; longitudinal geospatial coding; large high-risk American Indian subsample; embedded quasi-experiment of income transfers; and multi-generational assessments. We propose to add a full assessment of participant’s health, health risks, and cognitive, social and economic functioning in their early 40s (aim 1). This aim involves locating, recontacting, and assessing 80%+ of the GSMS participants with a 120-minute in-home assessment, including collection of demographic and socioeconomic and attitudinal information, neurocognitive tasks, and biomeasure collection. We also propose to evaluate everyday life and the rural context of adults in rural Appalachia (aim 2). This aim involves following participants for 6 months with 1) an Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) protocol assessing within-subject variability in health, wellness, economic, and social functioning (every other week; 26 times total), 2) actigraphy to assess physical activity and sleep (3-1 week observations), and 3) geospatial movement using GPS monitoring to assess activity space. This in-depth individual information will be coupled with community and neighborhood profiles assessed via Census data linkage to block groups/census tracts, systematic social observations of neighborhoods, and participant/neighborhood surveys on collective efficacy (i.e., social cohesion and informal social control). We propose to harmonize data collected in this project with key aging studies to facilitate urban/rural and Appalachia/national comparisons (aim 3). This aim involves harmonizing measures of core constructs to maximize overlap with key aging studies, creating cross-walked codebooks between GSMS and key studies and constructing multi-study model datasets. Finally, we propose to create a comprehensive data-sharing program (aim 4). This program will maximize access and use of GSMS- RA for a new audience of users, scientists, and potential collaborators. The project brings together longstanding GSMS researchers (Copeland, Dodge, and Aberg) with new collaborators who have led large-scale data col- lection projects in middle and later adulthood (Hotz and Cagney). The proposed project is methodologically innovative in gathering high-quality data on everyday life via GPS monitoring and an EMA design coupled with actigraphy and rural context profiles via a combination of Census and other administrative data, systematic social observations, and participant/neighbor surveys. This proposal looks to develop a new resource that captures the full arc of a life with intimate detail about living and aging in a rural context.


University of Vermont

Funding Period:

09/01/2021 to 01/31/2025