Social Connectedness

Our social health — the development and maintenance of meaningful social connections — is as important to longevity as eating well and exercising. Not only does the quality of our relationships matter, but having enough interactions on a regular basis, and having people available that we can call on if something bad happens influences how long we live. Providing care to others is an important way that we connect with others. In fact, starting a new volunteer activity in later life can help stave off disability. Unfortunately, Florida ranks dead last in the United States when it comes to volunteering and with regard to the proportion who participate in local groups or organizations. Policies that help increase social connectedness through volunteering could have a potent impact on longevity in Florida.

The CPC provides policy-informed research related to a variety of factors that shape our social connectedness as we age, including volunteering and providing care to loved ones. In partnership with the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, we also conduct policy-informed research on the social impacts of intimate partnerships family relationships, and friendships.  

Examples of Funded Projects:

“Examining Longitudinal Outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study Pet Module: The Multidimensional Impact of Companion Animals on Older Community Dwelling Adults” (2017-2019). Principal Investigator: Dawn Carr; Co-Investigator: Natalie Sachs-Ericsson. Additional team members: Miles Taylor, Nancy Gee. Funded by the Gerontological Society of America/Waltham Institute. ($50,000). 

“Racial Differences in the Effects of Family Caregiving on Cognitive, Functional, and Psychological Health: A Pilot Study” (2018-2019). Principal Investigator: Dawn Carr. Funded by Council on Research and Creative Activity, Florida State University. ($13,000).

Recent Related Publications:

Carr, D.C. (2022). “Volunteering as a public health endeavor.” In: Kunkel, S., & Settersten, R.A. (eds). Aging, Society, and the Life Course, 6th ed.Springer Publishing Company. 

Saunders, R.K., & Carr, D.C. (2022). Benefits of social support for depressive symptoms among men and women with same-sex experiences in later life. The Gerontologist, 62(6), 876-888Doi: 10.1093/geront/gnab192

Carr, D.C., Friedmann, E., Gee, N., Gilchrist, C. Sachs-Ericsson & Koodaly, L. (2021). Dog walking and the social impact of the covid-19 pandemic on loneliness in older adults. Animals, 11(7), 1852-1867. Doi: 10.3390/ani11071852. 

Kail, B. L. & Carr, D. C. (2020). Structural social support and changes in depression during the retirement transition: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 75(9), 2040-2049. Doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbz126

Carr, D. C., Kail, B. L. & Rowe, J. W. (2018) The relation of volunteering and subsequent changes in physical disability in older adults. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 73(3), 511-521doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbx102