Aging Action Research Center

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 management of grant programs.  For more than 20 years, NORC has united scholarly expertise in aging research and cutting edge survey 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 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, 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.  Our broad network of scholars leverages these innovative data collection methods to research issues such as social context, loneliness, biobehavioral pathways, healthcare policy, spirituality, and elder mistreatment.

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 and products 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 interested in the application of their work, but will, more importantly, serve to ensure that NORC’s research benefits the broader population.

Representative Projects

HighScope Perry Preschool Study. Sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the HighScope Perry Preschool Study (HPPS) is designed to teach us about the lasting effects of early childhood interventions, such as preschool programs.  The original Perry Preschool Program targeted a disadvantaged African American population in the 1960s. Evaluated initially by a clinical trial of preschool age children, participants were then followed periodically through age 40. Results from this longitudinal survey show strong evidence for the benefits of children in the treatment group in the areas of improved school readiness, higher female graduation rates, higher employment rates and earnings, reduced involvement in crime, and high economic return on investment. More

The Landmark Spirituality and Health Survey. ​The Landmark Spirituality and Health Survey is a sub-award with the University of Michigan for a grant from the John H. Templeton Foundation for the construction of the baseline effort for a nationally representative sample of adults. The effort includes finalization of the 70-minute CAPI questionnaire, drawing of the sample, screening and interviewing 3,000 adults  - 1,000 ages 18-40, 1,000 ages 41-64 and 1,000 ages 65 and above. Additionally, interviewers will collect weight using a blue tooth enabled sensor scale, waist circumference, hip circumference, height, blood pressure and pulse. Blood pressure and pulse will be measured using a blue tooth enabled wrist cuff. In addition, we will ask to collect blood spots via a finger prick for 6 standard assays.  More

The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), since its inception in 1991, has been an invaluable source of information for administering the Medicare program, estimating health care expenditures and sources of payment outlays for beneficiaries (including both Medicare covered and non-covered services), and creating a more-nuanced understanding of the health status of  beneficiaries and of how program changes impact health status. It is the leading source of information about the Medicare program and plays an essential role in monitoring and evaluating key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  More

Developing and Conducting an Evaluation of AoA's Program to Prevent Elder Abuse. ​The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), Department of Health and Human Services, has contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to design and conduct an evaluation of pilot interventions to prevent elder mistreatment through the Elder Abuse Prevention Interventions Program, which is funded by the Administration on Aging (AoA) and mandated by the Elder Justice Act.  The purpose of the project is to study the development and implementation of state grantees' elder abuse interventions, analyze administrative data, and report findings on the characteristics of victims and perpetrators of elder abuse or those at-risk, use of prevention services, and performance measures. More

Evaluation Study Design for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) contracted with NORC to develop an evaluation study design to better understand and assess the effectiveness of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP). NORC was tasked with building the evidence base on LTCOPs in order to develop recommendations for a rigorous and comprehensive study design that investigates program efficiency and program effectiveness at multiple levels, including the resident/family, facility, local/state/program, and federal levels. The effort was led by NORC with extensive input from the ACL and a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that was created to guide and inform the overall research objectives and design of the project. Key tasks involved the development of a family of logic models and  a set of overarching research questions as well as the identification of data collection tools and sources. More

See all Aging Action Research Center projects


All News

News The Washington Post: GSS data provides a look at how Americans view democracy in the United States More
Posted: 1.4.2017 3:29PM
News NPR The Diane Rehm Show: Discussing and rating child care in the U.S. with GSS findings More
Posted: 10.3.2016 4:44PM
News FOX News Magazine: GSS data gives insight into happy marriages More
Posted: 10.3.2016 4:36PM


News GSS data provides a look at how Americans view democracy in the United States More
Posted: 1.4.2017 3:29PM
News Discussing and rating child care in the U.S. with GSS findings More
Posted: 10.3.2016 4:44PM
News GSS data gives insight into happy marriages More
Posted: 10.3.2016 4:36PM



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Linda Waite

Linda Waite
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