Mailman students turn out theses on aging topics from older adults as targets of fake news to overcoming barriers to preparing advanced directives

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Three graduating Mailman students spent their final semesters producing original thesis work on aging topics, filling research gaps. We are delighted to share their abstracts below. Congratulations to Evan Eschliman,  Eric Goldwein and Leora Steinberg!

 

EVAN ESCHLIMAN, MS 2019 in Sociomedical Sciences: Rethinking the Measurement of Self-Perceptions of Aging in Older Adults

Abstract: Increasing evidence points to older adults’ self-perceptions of aging being associated with health outcomes such as longevity and functional health. There are serious flaws with current methods of measurement, however. This thesis discusses the growing importance of older adults’ self-perceptions of aging given the increasing proportion of older adults in society, explains the concept’s theoretical underpinnings, critiques its current measurement, and proposes a new measurement tool that is comprehensive in scope and can elicit scores that can be compared across time and cultures. An improved measurement of older adults’ self-perceptions of aging will allow for a better understanding of how this variable impacts the health of older adults, along with better design of interventions to address its negative effects on the global population’s health.

 

ERIC GOLDWEIN, MPH 2019, History, Ethics and Law Certificate: Fake news, digital inequality, and the aging population

Online fake news has garnered significant research attention since emerging as a hot-button issue during the 2016 United States presidential election cycle. New studies suggest this digital threat disproportionally burdens older adult digital media consumers and hinders population health. Based on literature research and interviews with key informants, this thesis argues that older adult fake news susceptibility is a public health problem symptomatic of an age-based digital divide.

I begin by reviewing emerging research showing heightened fake news susceptibility and exposure in older adults. Next, I evaluate the role of age bias in research, policy, and public discourse surrounding online false information. I will then highlight the budding research on the adverse individual and societal health effects associated with fake news to assert that this is a public health issue comparable to online fraud and digital inequality.

I conclude by evaluating fake news interventions grouped into three categories: 1) Research, 2) Regulation, and 3) Empowerment. Using a public health framework, I analyze existing interventions and propose recommendations to curb fake news and empower older adult digital media consumers in the post-truth era.

 

BY LEORA STEINBERG, MPH 2019, Health of an Aging Society Certificate: Prevalence of Advance Directives, Barriers on Completion and How They Can Be Overcome: Needs Assessment Proposal

Abstract: Advance directives (ADs) document end-of-life treatment wishes and designate surrogate decision makers. ADs guide healthcare providers, families, and friends when the patient is no longer able to communicate healthcare decisions. ADs are an essential exercise of individual autonomy. Even though ADs allow people to express their desires for healthcare treatment, completion rates for ADs remain low among adults age 65 and older. Stakeholders should develop interventions that increase the utilization of ADs. To facilitate the implement of interventions, a needs assessment should be conducted guided by theory and evidence. This proposal focuses on older adults’ completion of ADs using the sample case of the City of New York. I propose that stakeholders obtain data for the needs assessment with key stakeholder interviews and a literature review. These needs assessments would provide insight into barriers and facilitators that influence older adults’ completion of ADs. Stakeholders can use these findings to develop interventions in particular but not only, for vulnerable populations.