Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


The purpose of this study was to identify those variables which influenced health status, develop a survey instrument which established the prevalence of these variables among the county's elderly population, evaluate the results of the survey, and develop and implement a comprehensive educational program to meet the identified needs. Life events, along with demographic and other psychosocial variables, affect health status. It is anticipated that based upon the results of this study, the Community Medical Center (CMC) can develop programs which make coping with these events and variables easier and reduce their negative affects on thee elderly's health status. The subjects surveyed for this study consisted of residents of four housing facilities operated by the Lackawanna County Housing Authority, and all located within the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The elderly were defined as those individuals over the age of sixty. A comparison analysis (Chi-Square) between the survey respondents and the elderly population of Lackawanna County was conducted to determine if the study sample was representative of the population universe of elderly in the county. Although this analysis determined that the sample was not similar to the total. population, it can be concluded that other retirement centers and elderly housing projects have roughly the same demographic characteristics as represented in this study. Since it was the original intent to develop educational programs at the hospital's new retirement housing project, it can be assumed that the study results are valid for this purpose. After the surveys were collected, they were tabulated to determine the total responses for the various questions. Totals were also determined for the various demographic cohorts. Statistical treatment of the data included product-moment correlation coefficients (Pearson r) and multiple regression analysis. Interestingly, the older respondents reported having better health than did younger respondents. It was also found that those individuals who reported being emotionally attached to a significant other person (i.e., friend or confidant) reported higher levels of health. As well, those individuals who undertook positive health behaviors (i.e. refrained from smoking and extensive drinking of alcoholic beverages and the like) also reported higher levels of health. Another important finding of the research was that those individuals who reported living the longest period of time in the Lackawanna County Housing Authority, facilities (which are restricted to elderly residents) also reported having the highest levels of health. Five psychosocial and demographic variables explained 34 percent of the variation found in the respondents' reported health statuses: the respondents’ age, the absence of stressful life events, emotional bondedness with a friend, reported levels of loneliness, and the presence of health behaviors. This suggests that in order to more fully understand the health status of elderly individuals, additional research should be focused on these psychosocial and demographic variables. It can be inferred from these findings that social interventions designed to enhance social support networks of the elderly may be effective in minimizing the impact of stressful life events and in controlling the development and/or course of illnesses. Further, the findings strongly suggest that the living environment within which elderly reside may be a powerful factor in controlling illness. Those environments which facilitate the development and continuation of social support networks among elderly appear to enhance health functioning and coping with stressful life events. Based upon the results of the survey, it was recommended that three pilot educational programs be offered on an experimental basis: dealing with the death of a spouse, family member, or friend; coping with loneliness; and weight loss and nutrition. Upon review of the student evaluations of these programs, it was recommended that two of the three become a regular part of the Continuing Education curriculum and that the third be revised prior to being offered again. It was also recommended that two additional courses be offered on an experimental basis: Talents and Interests Identification/Utilization and Practical Health Improvement Strategies. Finally, all of the programs which are presently offered will be evaluated to determine whether they can be changed to deal directly with the elderly and the elderly’s specific concerns. It is anticipated that by implementing the above steps, those most closely affected with delivering care to the elderly will be able to use the results of this study in developing programs which will positively affect the health status of the elderly.

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