In response to the Age of Age, researchers across disciplines investigate how meaning and well-being are nurtured and sustained in long living. Social work researchers focus on the longevity experience among the most vulnerable in our communities. One of these researchers, Dr. Dennis Myers, and his colleagues aspire to understand the interplay between resilience and vulnerability among persons 50+ who face relational, spiritual, health, and income challenges. His work also includes resiliency among families, professionals, congregations, and communities who engage elder vulnerability. Contexts supporting this line of inquiry include residential long-term care facilities and the community.
Two research projects related to residential long-term care venues are "Resilient Licensed Nursing Facility Administrator (LNFA) Practice in Residential Long-term Care" and "Managing Difficult Resident and Family Responses in Residential Long-term Care Settings." These studies draw on the concept of career resilience to discover how LNFAs and social workers stay and even thrive in one of the most demanding roles in health care. One unique facet of this research involves findings highlighting resilient responses of LNFAs and social workers to opportunities and challenges presented by families of vulnerable older persons.
George Bernard Shaw observes that "Life is not a brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." Shaw’s aspiration shapes the intention of Myers and his research colleagues--to create the kind of knowledge that brightens resilience for those in the crucible of elder vulnerability and for those called to care for them.Click to learn more about Dr. Myers.
Dr. Helen Harris has more than 25 years practice experience in working with loss and grief in settings including foster care, adoption, hospice, and counseling. Her research focus is on effective assessment and intervention with complicated grief. Current research projects exploring the impact of grief on cognition including attention, concentration, and memory. In a study of more than 1700 elementary age children, Dr. Harris found an association between childhood loss and grief and a diagnosis of ADHD. Her current research is exploring the diagnostic process for ADHD and the presence of psychosocial stressors including trauma, loss, and grief. In a qualitative study of adults in bereavement groups, almost 100% reported challenges with concentration, attention, and memory. Future research plans include developing and testing an instrument that measures the cognitive impact of grief along with the other grief domains.
Dr. Harris is also engaged in research assessing the effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) with trauma and grief. Finally, Dr. Harris is exploring the lived experience of persons who identify as Christian and LGBT with a focus on their loss and grief experiences and best practices for working with this population.Click to learn more about Dr. Harris' research.
Emerging research on religion, spirituality, health and mental health indicates that assessing and discussing clients’ religion/spirituality (RS) in treatment promotes resilience and positive outcomes across a variety of health and mental health issues. Additionally, many clients express a desire for their RS beliefs to be integrated into their clinical treatment, and more importantly, clients prefer that the helping professional initiate the discussion. However, despite client desires and research demonstrating the importance of considering this area of clients’ lives, few health and mental health practitioners have received training on integrating clients’ RS in clinical practice. Therefore, there is a critical need to assess current practitioners’ views and behaviors around integrating clients’ RS in practice.Click to learn more about Dr. Oxhandler's research.
In recent years, there has been much interest in the role that religious organizations play in strengthening neighborhoods and communities. Congregations and faith-based nonprofits contribute significant monetary resources, facility space, services, and volunteer labor to communities each year. Additionally, they play an important part in strengthening civil society by fostering valuable social ties and organizational connections. Yet, it remains to be seen what impact broad changes occurring in US religious life may have on the contribution these organizations make.
In his current research, Dr. Polson explores the affects that significant changes, such as increasing levels of diversity and the rise of large congregations, have on the contribution that religious organizations make to civil society. Dr. Polson’s research also explores the ways that different congregational cultures shape individual and organizational efforts to support communities.Click to learn more about Dr. Polson.