- Written by Jessica Riel
- Published: 22 May 2015
What makes Greenfield a good community to grow old in?
In what ways is Greenfield “healthy”?
What could make it better?
What could you personally do to be healthier and make this a healthier community?
These are the questions asked by “Healthy Aging: Greenfield,” a study being conducted now by Greenfield resident, Walter Leutz, Ph.D., and five “community co-researchers,” older adults and residents of Greenfield, who were recruited by Dr. Leutz in the spring. This study uses a “Participatory Action Research” model, he says, “to get older people involved in the design and carrying out of the project.”
What does "healthy" mean?
For the purpose of this study, “health” is not just defined as access to care and services; its expansive definition also includes positive social relationships with family and friends, access to transportation and affordable housing, feeling safe and secure, having a good diet, being physically active, the ability to pursue enjoyable activities and be involved with your community, and, perhaps most importantly, having a purpose in life.
In May, the co-researchers received training and certification and are now collecting data and refining the study. Additional older adults will have various supporting roles with the study.
How will residents of Greenfield participate?
To capture a representative view of the needs and opinions of older adults in the entire town, the study will include interviews of leaders and staff members of public and private organizations serving older adults. The study will also include six to ten focus groups of older adults from different demographics within the community, such as:
- Residents of low-income housing
- Persons from different religious communities
- Persons who are homeless or jobless
- Users of particular services
- Older persons who still work
- Persons from different racial and ethnic minorities
What will happen at the end of the study?
At the end of the summer, Dr. Leutz will work with the co-researchers to analyze the data. “The hope is to find things that people in the town can take action on,” says Dr. Leutz. He expects their report, which will include actionable recommendations, to be available in the autumn. The report will be made available to the broader Greenfield community and presented to an Advisory Committee, consisting of older adults and representatives of key agencies and organizations, including LifePath, which can support or refine the recommended actions.
More about Walter Leutz, Ph.D.
Dr. Leutz is a professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. A gerontologist, Dr. Leutz has expertise in social welfare policy, long-term care financing and service delivery, disabilities policy, and healthy aging. He began working with the healthy aging model over five years ago as part of the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative. Dr. Leutz is completing the Greenfield study and another in Waltham, Mass., during his sabbatical, which ends in December. Working with him as the first co-researcher on this project is his partner, Betsy Leutz, an early childhood educator, who recently retired from a career in human services, where she worked with infants, young children and their families and caregivers at an Early Intervention agency, the United Way, and Wheelock College. Dr. Leutz hopes to continue working on the project after he returns to Brandeis, but also believes that the co-researchers and advisory committee will work together to take action and give the project a life of its own.
How you can become involved