Trauma, Aging and Well-Being Initiative

Trauma, Aging, and Well-BeingInvoking Human Rights, Intergenerational Family Justice, Peace, and Freedom

Defining the Key Issues and Definition

For this initiative, trauma is broadly conceptualized to traumatic and stressful life experiences that accumulate during the life course that engender a subjective response. These experiences may include being a victim of or witness to family, community or structural violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, natural or human made disasters, war and mass trauma, the unexpected or expected death of a loved one, widowhood, receiving a serious diagnosis, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, retraumatization in healthcare, separation or divorce, sudden unemployment, caregiver stress, historical or cultural discrimination, stigma, or oppression. These experiences of may be of varying degrees of severity and may be a singular childhood experience of significant magnitude, such as being a victim of physical or sexual assault, or an accumulation of traumatic or stressful life experiences. Later life biopsychosocial consequences of trauma may include revictimization, physical, cognitive or emotional impairment, dementia, serious mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, psychological distress, substance abuse, social isolation,  and/or early mortality.

In later life, many older persons are particularly vulnerable due to age discrimination and other barriers that impact their access to quality services and justice, especially if they reside in poverty-stricken and violent neighborhoods. Older persons may also be subject to elder abuse in public housing, community medical centers, social service agencies, or in short- and long-term residential facilities such as nursing homes and prisons. Yet, despite an accumulation of traumatic and stressful experiences, evidence suggests that individuals of any age who use adaptive coping, such as physical, cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual, and empowerment practices, are more likely to maintain biopsychosocial resilience in later life.

 Thought and Practice Innovations and Courageous Scholarship

For this initiative, Justia Agenda team members engage in courageous scholarship that examines trauma, aging, coping resilience, and well-being from a human rights and social justice perspective. These contributions target innovation and new possibilities for theory, research, practice, program evaluation, policy, and advocacy in one of the following key areas:

  1. Causes, Correlates, and Consequences:The etiology and/or consequences of trauma and well-being in later life.
  2. Mediating and Moderating Mechanisms: Mediating and moderating mechanisms that may be associated with cumulative health and well-being in later life (e.g., age, race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, education, geographic location, religion, cognitive ability, immigration or legal status), and those that may foster biopsychosocial resilience in later life (e.g., cognitive, physical, emotional, social, and/or spiritual coping).
  3. Prevention, Assessment, and InterventionDevelopment and testing of innovative interdisciplinary theory, primary, secondary, or tertiary intervention models or practices that target psychological, emotional, social, cultural, spiritual, and structural factors that influence the relationship between trauma, aging, and well-being. Our work seeks to examine the effectiveness of micro, mezzo, macro level practices in reducing risk and fostering resilience among older adults, their families, and their communities are strongly encouraged. These multi-level practices may include evidence based practice and policy, DSM-V trauma assessment for older adults, organizational assessment, community mapping, trauma informed care, crisis and grief interventions, anti-oppressive/empowerment practices, stress management, culturally responsive family and community interventions, empathy/moral and compassion training, care coordination, palliative care, victim advocacy and conflict resolution, reconciliation, restorative justice, forgiveness, cultural arts programming, spiritual and alternative modalities (e.g., yoga, expressive arts, pet therapy) and peace building. It may also include the development of interdisciplinary training and scientist-advocate models that address forensic practice and incorporate key stakeholders in decision-making or illustrate ways to incorporate collaborative governance, human rights and grassroots activism, coalition building, public awareness campaigns, and social media for healthy and safe communities.
  4. Human Rights, Policy, and Advocacy. We engage in analysis of existing or pending human rights guidelines and laws, evidence-based and evidence informed policy and advocacy efforts and alternative research methodologies that improve the response to trauma and justice and the treatment of victims and offenders trauma and justice, their families and their communities. Some examples for policy analysis include national/international and state level policy reforms (e.g., Compassionate and Geriatric Release Laws, U.S. Affordable Care Act-Elder Justice Act and the Older Americans Act). Research findings may ultimately contribute to implementation of United Nations guidelines, including promoting Conventions on Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities.
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