Established as an Exploratory Center in 1994 with funds from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), our aging research program has evolved into the Aging Action Research Network (AARN). AARN aims to function as a substantive hub for aging research within and outside of NORC, acting as a knowledge broker for the development of design-based research, dissemination to stakeholders, innovation in survey research methods and evaluation, and management of grant programs. For more than 20 years, NORC has united scholarly expertise in aging research and cutting edge survey research and evaluation methodology to increase understanding of what it means to grow older in the United States.
NORC’s mission is to conduct high-quality social science research in the public interest. Many of its flagship studies collect data from older adults, including the long-standing General Social Survey (GSS), the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP), and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) which has followed adolescents into middle age and beyond. These and other similar research ventures take advantage of a variety of scholarly resources, including NORC's nationally representative sample frame, multi-client household web panels, program data, and custom samples designed specifically for project needs.
NORC continues to pioneer new data collection methods in order to improve data quality and expand the kinds of research questions that can be asked about the life of older adults. The collection of biological samples allows NORC to examine physiological mechanisms through which social features of older adults’ lives influence their health and wellbeing. Obtaining moment-to-moment information using devices such as smartphones and sensors provides reliable estimates of activity levels and their environmental contexts. Further, NORC is using qualitative data collection methods, including interviews and focus groups, to study the experiences of older adults, specifically related to key areas of social determinants of health.
Our broad network of scholars leverages these innovative data collection methods to research issues such as, biobehavioral pathways, elder mistreatment, healthcare policy, health equity, loneliness, mobility and transportation, spirituality, and the impact of social and community context on health and quality of life.
An evolving mission for the Aging Action Research Network is to translate the broader research conducted at NORC and the University of Chicago into tools, products, and research that can be used to solve problems related to aging, and support behaviors that ensure healthy aging. As part of this effort, the Network proposes to collaborate with practitioners to develop and pilot interventions that draw upon research related to aging, as well as the wealth of data collected on this population from NORC studies, including the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. Translating research and conducting interventions will be useful to researchers, practitioners, and decision makers, and will, more importantly, serve to ensure that NORC’s research benefits the broader population.