Tracking change in seniors after Sandy

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    Getting older can mean difficulty adapting to change.

    So, what happens to seniors when they undergo a dramatic life change such as a hurricane that destroys their homes? That’s what one researcher at Rowan University intends to find out. 

    Professor Rachel Pruchno and her team have been awarded more than $3 million in grants to study the effects of Superstorm Sandy on seniors. She joined Shai Ben-Yaacov on NewsWorks Tonight to discuss the future study.

    The study’s singularity revolves around one resource: ORANJ BOWL (Ongoing Research on Aging in New Jersey:  Bettering Opportunities for Wellness in Life). It’s a database of almost 6,000 New Jerseyans, giving researchers information on subjects before Sandy hit.

    “When people do disaster research, and I’m talking about research done after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, rarely does a researcher have information about the people before the disaster struck,” Pruchno said. “So, because of that, we don’t really know whether the disaster made people more depressed or made people more anxious.”

    Pruchno’s team also is studying the effect of a community on an individual’s adaptation to a disaster. This one delves into the “social connectedness of people,” she said. The hypothesis follows the logic that a community with neighbors who help each other out before and after a storm will fare better.

    Once research is completed, the team hopes to compare findings with similar studies, but another aspect of making the information visible is informing elected officials. While getting published and planning social media blitzes gains attention, getting studies into the hands of officials isn’t always easy. 

    “Sometimes we’re more successful than other times,” Pruchno admitted.

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