Current projects

Much research of the SoCA Group is integrated in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (www.lasa-vu.nl), a longitudinal survey among people aged 55-85 at baseline that started in 1992. LASA is largely funded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, directorate of long-term care. In 2002 and 2012 new cohorts of people aged 55-65 were added, enabling cross-cohort and cohort-sequential comparisons. In 2013 a cohort of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants aged 55-65 was included. Several side-studies have been conducted on the LASA-sample in the past years: among others, a longitudinal study on widowhood (funded by NWO), a study on caregiving within families of older adults (funded by NWO), a study on loneliness (funded by Rabobank foundation) and a study on informal care in the last phase of life (funded by the VSB). Core issues studied are diversity and trajectories in social networks, social participation (including volunteering and labor market participation), family relations (including stepfamilies), the use of informal and formal care, and loneliness. Another main interest is socio-economic inequality in health. 

Below we elaborate on a few projects that use other data, have a specific focus, or that are externally funded.

1.       Informal care (leader: Broese van Groenou) 

Two aspects of informal care require separate data collections. ‘Care networks of frail older adults’ (funded by NPO/ZonMw) studies the composition and functioning of mixed care networks of frail care recipients. Focus is on how cooperation between formal and informal caregivers in the home environment can be improved. A second project studies organizational policies to facilitate the combination of work and care among employees of over 50 companies. The project is funded by ZonMw and is a joint venture with Movisie.

2.       Ambient assisted living (leaders: Van Tilburg and Aartsen)

The project “Developing and testing a multi‐faceted loneliness intervention for older adults” (funded by EU-AAL) aims to assess which elements of a loneliness intervention are beneficial. Based on the theory of mental incongruity, various coping strategies will be developed and applied within an intervention project. Furthermore, unique in this project is that choice of coping strategy is one of the outcomes, which is important because fit of an intervention and participant’s situation is assumed to contribute to the success of an intervention. This research not only seeks to provide more insight in what people may choose, but will also measure what they actually have chosen.
“Motivating people aged 50 and over to increase physical activity” (funded by EU-AAL): The aim of this project is to study if and how an intervention using prompts in the form of motivational messages sent over time is more effective than providing information at one point in time. The effectiveness of prompts is tested in a randomized trial in an intervention setting aimed to enhance the level of physical activity. The relative contribution of theory-based prompts compared to simple reminder prompts on the effects of the interventions will be assessed.

3.       Development of a tool to improve skills of professionals in mental health care to better support informal caregivers of older people with a functional psychiatric syndrome (leader: Aartsen)

Existing interventions insufficiently address the complexity of care that is needed in this specific group of caretakers, such as the extended period of care, co-existing behavioral problems and severe mental problems. The development of the intervention is based on three sources of information; theoretical insights, expertise knowledge of the professional and daily experiences of the caregiver. The development of the intervention is executed at Altrecht Mental health care hospital, in close collaboration with two departments of the VU-University; psychology and sociology.

4.       Socio-economic inequalities in health (leader: Huisman)

Socioeconomic inequalities persist into late life, where they cause differences in mortality and morbidity. The VIDI-project “Resilience in old age; Successful ageing despite adversity” (funded by NWO) analyzes successful aging in deprived groups, where adverse outcomes would be expected. Among deprived indigenous and Turkish and Moroccan respondents in LASA, the project will identify markers of resilience and successful aging and provide explanations for why some people have aged successful despite their social disadvantage.

5.       An evolutionary approach to modern grandparenting (leader: Thomese)

Grandparents are increasingly involved in care for their grandchildren. This enables parents to better combine work and family life. Evolutionary theories help explain why and under which conditions grandparents take on this new role. An evolutionary perspective connects modern grandparenting to fertility outcomes. Moreover, it connects different disciplinary approaches to fertility, aging, and family change. Originating from a NWO-funded project (NWO Evolution and Behaviour), the project uses evolutionary approaches to address the role of grandparents in dual earner families across welfare states.