Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Population Research Discovery Seminars

Elder Orphans in the Community: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Data from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) Study

Janelle S. Taylor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

02/21/2020
12:30-1:30 PM PT
121 Raitt Hall

The importance of informal (i.e., unpaid) caregivers of older adults with dementia is widely recognized, as is the need to support them in this often difficult work. Available evidence suggests that it is spouses (especially wives) and adult children (especially daughters) who most often provide caregiving support. However, not all older adults with dementia have family available. What happens to “elder orphans,” i.e. older adults who have no living spouse or children, as they develop dementia? What life trajectories lead people to be in this situation, what caregiving resources do they access, and what turning points trigger changes in caregiving arrangements?  What can we know about the experiences as well as the health outcomes of this extremely vulnerable and difficult to research segment of the population? This presentation addresses such questions through an innovative mixed-methods analysis of existing medical research data and health records data collected by the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) Study, a longrunning study of incident dementia based at Kaiser Permanente of Washington Health Research Institute.


Janelle S. Taylor is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. (She was on the faculty of UW for 20 years, before moving to Toronto in summer 2019). As a medical anthropologist Taylor uses concepts and methods from sociocultural anthropology to study social and cultural aspects of health, illness, and medicine, in research that has been based in North America. Taylor is the author of a prizewinning scholarly book, co-editor of a scholarly volume, and author or co-author of numerous articles appearing in journals of medicine and medical education as well as medical anthropology and cultural anthropology. Recently, most of her research has attended to questions relating to dementia, including: practices of recognition and caring; exclusion of people with dementia from geriatrics research; and friendship in the face of dementia. The work to be presented in this talk draws upon a grant that she recently held (as PI) from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) to study “Health Outcomes of Patients with Dementia without Family Caregivers.

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