Current Research and Special Projects

Mobility Support Agenda-mobility Support that Embodied Both Form and Function

Project Directors:  Drs. Elizabeth DePoy and Stephen Gilson

Funded by:  National Institute on Aging

AFARI was developed as a University-Industry partnership.  This device is a contemporary aesthetic, co-designed adaptive three wheeled mobility support to foster outdoor movement on diverse terrain.  It has been commercialized through a Maine partner and is now being nationally and internationally expanded.  The AFARI was part of the Access + Ability Exhibit at the Smithsonian, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and was on world tour until March 2020.  It will resume the world tour when the pandemic is managed.

Intrac, a unique mobility and gait tracker can be fitted on any mobility device, including the AFARI.  It is being developed with funding from an Industry partner.  Intrac is also being developed as the intelligent controller for an automated brake for rollators with the goal of fall reduction, feedback and activity tracking.

Mojo, developed with the University of Maine and MTI support, is a modular mobility device prototype that can be used unilaterally, bilaterally and has changeable ground contacts for diverse terrain.

Eco-Sno is a bilateral outrigger support for cross country skiing.  It was prototyped with support from the University of Maine and MTI.

Autobrake is the intelligent automated breaking system for rollator, being developed with Industry support.

Elder Farm Study

Project Directors:  Drs. Elizabeth Depoy and Stephen Gilson

Funded by:  NIOSH

The study conducted in collaboration with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension unit, examined the ingenuity and unmet needs of aging farmers.

Humanness Agenda

Project Directors:  Drs. Elizabeth Depoy and Stephen Gilson

We are currently conducting research for the preparation of a book manuscript that examines dehumanization and infrahumanization of the atypical minoritarian body.

Empowerment among Home Care Workers

Project Directors:  Drs. Sandra S. Butler and Nancy Kusmaul

This was a pilot study in Maine and Maryland (n=12) investigating how home care aides experience or do not experience empowerment using a modified version of Kanter’s model of organizational structural empowerment to include aspects of psychological empowerment.  Research participants generally described high levels of psychological empowerment (e.g., autonomy and competence), but findings were mixed on structural empowerment (e.g., information and support).  Preliminary findings published in Journal of Women & Aging (2020)

Experiences of Older Lesbians with Home Care

Project Director:  Dr. Sandra S. Butler

Funded by:  Faculty Research Funds

This was a national qualitative study based on telephone interviews with 20 older lesbians who were currently using, or had in the past ten years, used home care services.  Some family caregivers (partners) and home care workers were also interviewed.  Experiences were mixed with most feeling comfortable with workers assisting them; one in four experienced homophobia.  Findings have been published in Journal of Women & Aging (2017) and the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services (2017).

Retention of Home Care Workers: Assessing the Impact of Worker Age

Project Director: Sandra S. Butler, Principal Investigator
Funded by: National Institute on Aging

This project will serve as a training grant for students in health sciences, specifically social work and nursing. Each year of the three-year project, a new cadre of three students will be involved in all stages of the research project and will participate in a research seminar. The research focus of the project is to address the current crisis in our long-term care (LTC) system, namely maintaining an adequate number of workers to provide the daily care needed by millions of our nation’s elders. Direct care workers tend to work for very low wages, often without benefits, and under difficult working conditions. Not surprisingly, there are high turnover rates for these positions and vacancies are not always filled quickly. This phenomenon can result in compromised care for elders and increased direct costs for individual agencies and indirect costs for taxpayers supporting government programs. Factors predicting turnover among home care workers have been less well explored than for paraprofessional workers in nursing facilities. In particular, the impact of the age of the worker on the job experience of home care workers—and thus their job tenure— has not been examined. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that in the first decade of the twentieth-first century, 1.2 million additional direct care workers would be needed to both cover projected growth in LTC positions and replace departing workers. This increase in need is accompanied by a decrease in the pool of individuals from which the paraprofessional LTC workforce is generally drawn: women 25 to 55 years of age. One solution to this crisis could be to encourage older workers to enter and/or remain in the field. A more complete understanding of the experience of older home care workers will have practical significance in terms of recruitment strategies and intervention practices designed to increase retention.

There are four specific aims of this project:

  1. To increase the research experience and skills of students in social work and nursing and inspire them to pursue doctoral studies in health sciences;
  2. To investigate the interrelationships of age, employment factors (i.e., net income, client behaviors, and occupational injuries) and job experience factors (i.e., job satisfaction, burnout, and perceived empowerment) among personal care attendants (PCAs)/Personal Support Specialists (PSSs) in home care;
  3. To examine the effects of age in conjunction with employment factors and job experience factors in predicting length of employment and job termination; and
  4. To gain understanding of how individual (including age), sociocultural, and environmental factors influence job retention.

This project will be an 18-month longitudinal study of PCAs/PSSs in several home care agencies in Maine. A mail survey of PCAs/PSSs will gather data on multiple factors potentially related to job tenure. A shorter survey will be sent to all participants either at the time they leave the agency or, if still employed, at the end of the study period. This second survey will be followed by a telephone interview to collect data on the factors leading workers to stay with or leave the agency. Statistical analysis will be used to examine the direct and indirect effects of age, employment factors, and job experience factors on predicting length of employment. Qualitative data analysis techniques will be used to analyze the narrative data from the telephone interviews. The study findings will have practical implications in terms of recruitment and retention of home care workers, particularly older workers. Moreover, this investigation will inform the development and testing of an intervention geared to the needs of older home care workers with the goal of extending their job tenure. In addition to its primary goal of training students in health sciences research, this study ultimately aims to contribute to a reduction in the negative effects of worker turnover, such as compromised care of elders and increased costs for agencies and government health care programs. It also aims to increase the employment of older workers in the field of home care, thereby promoting their psychological, physical, financial and emotional well-being.

Advanced biomechanics laboratory for Injury Reduction and Rehabilitation

Project Directors:  Elizabeth DePoy, Ph.D. and Vincent Caccese, Ph.D.
Funded by: Maine Technology Asset Fund and other federal and commercial sources
The Injury Reduction and Rehabilitation Project is supported by MTAF and other federal and commercial funding sources to develop high-tech products that result in the reduction of injury and promotion of fitness and health.

RRE:Robotic Rowing Exoskeleton

Project Directors: Elizabeth DePoy, Ph.D. and Vincent Caccese, Ph.D.
Funded by: Maine Technology Institute, National Science Foundation
RRE: Robotic Rowing Exoskeleton is a collaborative project devoted to the design and development of inclusive robotic, assistive fitness equipment.

Penquis Regional Linking Project

Co-Project Evaluators: Lenard Kaye, Ph.D.
Funded by: US Dept. of Health & Human Services, Children’s Bureau
5 year grant-funded project through Federal Children’s Bureau that will fund supports for children and caregivers affected by substance abuse including trauma informed systems of care interventions, regional partnership activities, and direct services. Families and Children Together is the lead agency for this grant. The Penquis Linking Project Partnership is a central leader in carrying out and informing grant activities. The Center on Aging and the School of Social Work will be jointly evaluating this project examining both outcomes at the client, partnership, and systems of care levels.

Rural Community Based Caregiver Network and Support System Evaluation

Project Director: Lenard Kaye, Ph.D.
Funded by: Maine Community Foundation
3 year grant-funded project to enhance caregiver supports in Washington and Hancock counties. This project is funded through the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and awarded to the Eastern Area Agency on Aging (lead agency). The Center on Aging, in collaboration with caregiver network service providers and Steering Committee members, is conducting an evaluation of the proposed services through the use of a caregiver survey protocol and service provision data collection procedures.

Encore Leadership Corps

Project Director: Lenard Kaye, Ph.D.
Funded by: Maine Community Foundation
This program is a partnership between the Center on Aging and the Maine Community Foundation that will bring 150-200 older adults from throughout the state together to participate in an intensive leadership and skills building summit on smart growth and environmental stewardship concepts. Volunteers receive follow-up support and training from the Center on Aging and its partners as they carry out community-based smart growth activities through volunteerism and policy-change initiatives.

Boomer Reporting Corps

Project Director:  Lenard Kaye, Ph.D.
Funded by: Maine Community Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies & the Knight Foundation
The Boomer Reporting Corps is a one-year collaborative project funded by the Maine Community Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Knight Foundation. The Boomer Reporting Corps is a specialized arm of the Encore Leadership Corps that aims to engage older adults in developing citizen journalism skills in order to bridge the digital divide in community news reporting and provide older adults with the skills and tools needed to be community informants and generators of community news.

Maine Kinship Connections Project

Project Director: Lenard Kaye, Ph.D.

3 year grant-funded project that provides Family Team Meetings (FTM), family finding, and kinship navigator services to grandfamilies in Maine through partnerships with Families and Children Together, DHHS, and Casey Family Services. Training will be provided by Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine to encourage a system-wide understanding and competency in addressing kinship issues. The Center on Aging provides grants management and evaluation services for the project.

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program

Project Director: Lenard Kaye, Ph.D.
Funded by: RSVP

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is America’s largest volunteer network for people age 55 and older. The UMaine Center on Aging RSVP program is one of 5 such programs in Maine designed to engage older adults in community service with documented impact on community needs. Our volunteers join nearly 500,000 volunteers across the country tackling key issues in their communities.  RSVP volunteers lead with experience so Get Involved – lead, share, and inspire.