University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Kaela Leary

Involvement: 

Award: 

Undergraduate Research Award

Bio: 

Kaela Leary is an undergraduate student majoring in Public Health and Psychology. Under the mentorship of her advisor, Dr. Gloria DiFulvio, her research broadly focuses on the Village to Village Network, a group of non-profit organizations whose mission is to provide an accessible means of aging in place for the older population. Her Honors Thesis will examine the Massachusetts Village Network to identify its structures of success as well as its gaps and address how to increase sustainability and accessibility of this aging in place model.

Research: 

My Honors Research Manuscript will focus on the village model, an aging in place model that began in Beacon Hill in Boston in 2002. The village model and others like it promote this method of aging by providing services, activities, and support within the community that encourage social connection and alleviate certain stressors that can be prevalent in older individuals living alone, such as providing rides to medical appointments, helping with home repair, or delivering groceries. The goals of the Village to Village network are to improve the quality of life for older adults. Most villages are non-profit and member driven organizations that serve one community. The village model can be a great way to positively impact the health of older adults, who are an important and ever growing part of our population. However, more research is needed on this topic to better understand the pathways to success and long-term sustainability.


As this network continues to grow across the country, there is little to be seen on how success is measured in this model as well as the organizational structures that promote these successes. Research addressing this could help expand networks by providing structures of success for new villages to follow as well as expand the body of knowledge on villages and their feasibility as a sustainable model for aging in place. My intent with this research manuscript is to explore the village model as it exists in Massachusetts, their origin state. I will examine several villages in Massachusetts through a case study and evaluate and compare the organizational strategies used in order for the villages to be successful as well as the challenges and barriers they face. The significance of exploring this issue is that as our population continues to age, there is a growing need for solutions aside from the traditional retirement/nursing home models that separate older people from their communities and support systems. At the same time, adults that wish to stay in their homes may still require a certain level of care and, for those living alone, social interaction and connection. In order for solutions like this to remain sustainable, significant research on the impact as well as the structures for success of these models needs to be done. My research will focus on the structures of success in hopes that these in turn help maximize impact on healthy aging and successful aging in place. Additional research could provide more incentive for funding from state or federal agencies as well as policies put in place that could ensure the longevity of villages and funding for additional longitudinal research on the impact these villages have on individual members ability to age in place. The advancement of knowledge in this discipline is crucial to not only the expansion of the village network but also the structures needed to create a healthy environment for our aging community so that the future of aging can be more community based and have a positive impact on mental and physical health
of older adults.

Student Award Academic Year: