Pilot Projects


  • Neika Sharifian

    The Cognitive Costs and Benefits of Social Technology use in Older Adulthood

    Neika Sharifian

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Psychology, College of Literature, Science & the Arts


    Social engagement is an important protective factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia. However, it is unclear whether social engagement through social technologies (i.e., texting, social media, video chat, email) demonstrate the same protective effects as face-to-face social interactions. The proposed study will assess whether previously-established social technology measures demonstrate measurement equivalence across younger and older adult populations and are psychometrically sound for use in older adults. 

  • Frederick Conrad

    Surveying Older Populations using Video Communication Technologies

    Frederick Conrad

    Research Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research
    Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Literature, Science & the Arts


    This research project will examine age-related differences in data quality, participation, respondent experience, and costs in two types of interviews: video-mediated (live two-way communication via platforms like Skype) and video self-administered (video-recorded interviewers asking questions and respondents answering by typing or clicking). These two survey modes are promising because they use off-the-shelf video technology and are less costly than face to face interviews, but they are not yet widely deployed. The project will provide new insights regarding how video-based interviewing affects respondent behavior and experience in surveys, in particular, for older populations.

  • Noah J. Webster

    Housing Context and Functional Health Among Lower Income Older Adults: The Mediating Role of Social Resources

    Noah J. Webster

    Associate Research Scientist, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research


    Housing characteristics and disability in later life are closely tied, but whether housing can positively influence functioning through social resources is unclear. Using data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), this pilot study will determine if and which social resources are a pathway through which housing is related to functional health in later life.


  • Kristine J. Ajrouch

    Measuring Alzheimer’s Disease in Arabic-Speaking Populations

    Kristine J. Ajrouch

    Adjunct Research Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research


    The incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) is higher among many racial/ ethnic minorities, but rates among Arab Americans, who exhibit more cardiovascular and other risk factors than whites, are unknown.  The first of its kind, this pilot study translates and validates established measures of cognition, function and behavior commonly used in MCI and ADRD diagnosis so they may be used with aging Arab Americans.

    • Ajrouch, K. 2019. Measuring Alzheimer's Disease in Arabic-Speaking Populations. 2nd annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. March 28, 2019, Ann Arbor, MI.
    • National Institute on Aging. R01AG057510. Alzheimer’s Disease Risk and Ethnic Factors: The Case of Arab Americans. PI: K. Ajrouch
  • Joshua Ehrlich

    Vision Impairment, Participation and Subjective Wellbeing in Older Adults

    Joshua Ehrlich

    Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Medical School


    Blindness and vision impairment affects 1 in 11 adults over age 65 in the United States. Among older adults, vision impairment is associated with loss of independence, decreased quality of life and increased morbidity and mortality. In this study, we explore the pathways through which vision impairment influences poorer subjective wellbeing and whether this association is mediated through participation or activity limitations.

    • Xiang X, Freedman VA, Shah K, Hu R, Stagg BC, Ehrlich JR. Self-Reported Vision Impairment and Subjective Well-Being in Older Adults: A Longitudinal Mediation Analysis. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Jun 5. pii: glz148. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glz148. [Epub ahead of print].
    • Shah K, Frank CR, Ehrlich JR. The Association Between Vision Impairment and Social Participation in Community-Dwelling Adults: A Systematic Review. Eye. 2020. doi:10.1038/s41433-019-0712-8
    • National Institute on Aging. U01AG032947. National Health and Aging Trends Study. Role: Co-Investigator
  • Sela Panapasa

    The Prevalence, Distribution and Correlates of Disability and Comorbidity in the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Aging Population: Results of a Population-based Study

    Sela Panapasa

    Associate Research Scientist, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research


    This project undertakes the first systematic analysis of the 2014 Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander-National Health Interview Survey (NHPI-NHIS) to understand the burden of disease and disability among the aging NHPI population. This project will provide important baseline information on the aged NHPI population and inform future directions for research, intervention, and policy.

    • Panapasa, S. 2019. The prevalence, distribution and correlates of disability and comorbidity in the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander aging population. 2nd annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. March 28, 2019, Ann Arbor, MI.
  • Roshanak Mehdipanah

    Examining the Role of Housing Tenure and Health on the Aging Population in the U.S.

    Roshanak Mehdipanah

    Assistant Professor, Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health


    This pilot study examines the relationship between housing characteristics and health among older Americans. Using the Health and Retirement Study, we hypothesize that, homeownership will have a protective effect over negative health outcomes in disinvested neighborhoods and that affordable housing and good housing conditions protect against negative health outcomes.

    • Mehdipanah R. 2019. Housing affordability and health. Panelist at Mayors’ Institute on Affordable Housing and Health: Advancing City-Level Strategies to Generate Sustainable Solutions. NeighborWorks and National League of Cities, April 2019, Detroit, Michigan.
    • Mehdipanah, R. 2019. Aging in Place: Helping individuals grow old at home. 2nd annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. March 28, 2019, Ann Arbor, MI.


  • Neil Mehta

    How Do Socioeconomic Status, Behaviors, and Age Interact to Produce Death Risks?

    Neil Mehta

    Assistant Professor, Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health
    Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center and Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research


    This research evaluates the nature of interactions between two key socio-demographic variables (educational attainment, race/ethnicity) and two key behavioral risk factors (obesity and smoking) to determine whether the two sets of risk factors operate additively or multiplicatively with each to influence the chance of dying.

    • Mehta, N. 2018. How do socioeconomic status, behaviors and age interact to produce death risks? 1st annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. May 7, 2018, Ann Arbor, MI.
    • Mehta, N.K., H. Zheng, M. Myrskylä. 2018. Do the effects of major sociodemographic and behavioral risk factors for mortality rise or fall with age? Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science. October 2018, Washington, D.C.
    • Mehta, N., Zheng, H., Myrskyläc, M. 2019. How do age and major risk factors for mortality interact over the life-course? Implications for health disparities research and public health policy SSM Popul Health. 2019 Aug; 8: 100438. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2019.100438
    • National Institute on Aging. R03AG060404. Contribution of Behavioral Factors and Chronic Diseases to International Differences in Healthy Life Expectancy. PI: N. Mehta
  • Courtney Allyn Polenick

    Multimorbidity Patterns in Aging Couples: Longitudinal Associations with Functional Disability

    Courtney Allyn Polenick

    Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Medical School


    Using data from ten waves (1996 to 2014) of the Health and Retirement Studies, this study examines patterns of multi-morbidity both within and between spouses, focusing on concordance in the management activities required by multiple conditions.

    • Polenick, C & Birditt K. 2018. Multi-morbidity patterns in Aging Couples: Longitudinal Associations with Functional Disability. 1st annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. May 7, 2018, Ann Arbor, MI.
    • Polenick, C. A., Birditt, K. S., & Kales, H. C. 2018. Chronic health conditions, depressive symptoms, and functional disability in aging couples. Poster presented at the 126th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. August 2018, San Francisco, CA.
    • Polenick, C. A., Birditt, K. S., Turkelson, A., & Kales, H. C. 2019. Individual-level and couple-level discordant chronic conditions: Longitudinal links to functional disability. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Advance online publication.
    • National Institutes on Aging. R03AG057838. Multimorbidity patterns in middle-aged and older couples: Implications for psychological well-being and health behaviors. PI: C. Polenick
  • Melissa Y. Wei

    Chronic Diseases and Physical Functioning: Development and Validation of an ICD-coded Multimorbidity Index

    Melissa Y. Wei

    Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Medical School


    This pilot study uses patient-reported outcomes in the nationally-representative Health and Retirement Study and Medicare claims to develop and internally validate a multimorbidity index for International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-coded chronic conditions weighted to physical functioning. The study will yield a validated multimorbidity measure that captures the impact of coexisting chronic diseases on physical functioning in aging adults relevant for clinical care, research, and policy.

    • Wei MY, Luster J, Ratz D, Langa KM. Chronic conditions and physical functioning: development of a new ICD-coded multimorbidity index. Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C. May 8, 2019.
    • Wei MY, Ratz D, Mukamal KJ. Multimorbidity and mortality among Medicare beneficiaries: simple disease count, Elixhauser, and a new ICD-coded multimorbidity-weighted index for use in claims data. American Geriatrics Society Annual Meeting. Portland, OR. May 3-5, 2019 (Presidential Poster Session).
    • Wei MY, Ratz D, Mukamal KJ. Multimorbidity in Medicare beneficiaries: Performance of an ICD-coded multimorbidity-weighted index. Multiple Chronic Conditions Scholars Workshop/Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers Annual Meeting. Arlington, VA. April 24, 2019.
    • Wei, M. 2019. Chronic diseases and physical functioning: Development and validation of an ICD-coded multimorbidity index. 2nd annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. March 28, 2019, Ann Arbor, MI.
    • Dr. Wei’s self-reported Multimordibity Weighted Index (MWI) is currently available for use on ePrognosis.org (https://eprognosis.ucsf.edu/mwi.php) and was featured on GeriPal (https://www.geripal.org/2019/04/multimorbidity-quantifying-its-impact.html).
  • Laura Beth Zahodne

    Cognitive Resilience to Depressive symptoms in Diverse Older Adults

    Laura Beth Zahodne

    Assistant Professor, Psychology, College of Literature, Science & the Arts
    Faculty Associate, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research


    Significant knowledge gaps regarding the depression-dementia link include modifiable factors that attenuate this link and reasons for differences in resilience across racial groups. This pilot addresses these gaps by recruiting a racially diverse, population-representative sample of older adults for psychosocial, cognitive, and functional assessment and by examining how modifiable psychosocial resources that differ across race promote cognitive resilience to depressive symptoms.

    • Zahodne, L. 2018. Cognitive resilience to depressive symptoms in diverse older adults. 1st annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. May 7, 2018, Ann Arbor, MI.
    • Zahodne, L. Pilot project from P30 AG024824 (Yung) and P30 AG053760 (Paulson). Inflammation, Social Stress, and Racial Disparities in Cognitive Aging 07/10/2018-06/30/2019.
    • Dr. Zahodne’s pilot resulted in initiating a new longitudinal cohort of adults transitioning into older adulthood: the Michigan Cognitive Aging Project (MCAP; PI Zahodne). MCAP has collected comprehensive measures of psychosocial functioning, health, and cognitive domains in over 400 racially and socioeconomically diverse adults assessed face-to-face. MCAP serves as a foundation for an ongoing longitudinal study that now includes the collection of blood-based biomarkers and neuroimaging data.


  • Christine Cigolle

    Rural Older Adults with Cognitive Impairment and Chronic Disease: A Mixed Methods Study of Social and Health Factors in Their Care

    Christine Cigolle

    Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Medical School Associate Professor, Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, Medical School


    This pilot undertakes a mixed-methods study of older adults with dementia in rural Michigan. The pilot addresses how rural older adults with dementia are cared for in their communities, as viewed by primary care physicians in those communities.

    • Abe, Michiko, Shinji Tsunawaki, Masakazu Matsuda, Christine T. Cigolle, Michael D. Fetters, Machiko Inoue. Perspectives on disclosure of dementia diagnosis among primary care physicians in Japan: a qualitative study. BMC Fam Pract. 2019 May 23;20(1):69. doi: 10.1186/s12875-019-0964-1. PMID: 31122197 PMCID: PMC6533714
    • Cigolle, C. 2017. Rural Older Adults with Cognitive Impairment and Chronic Disease: A Mixed Methods Study of Social and Health Factors in Their Care. Shizuoka Family Medicine, Kikugawa, Japan, February 2017.
    • Veterans Education and Research Association of Michigan. Home-based team transitional telecare to optimize mobility and physical activity in recently hospitalized older Veterans. PI: C. Cigolle
    • Pfizer Health Research Foundation (Japan). Rural and urban primary care physicians' approaches to the care of patients with dementia: comparative research between Japan and the United States. PI: M. Inoue
    • Michigan Health Endowment Fund. Optimizing safe medication use in older adults via in-home telepharmacy. PI: C. Cigolle
  • Philippa J. Clarke

    Muscle Weakness among Older Adults: A Silent Epidemic

    Philippa J. Clarke

    Research Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research
    Professor, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health


    This pilot project charts new territory in investigating the long-term health consequences of dynapenia to: 1) predict whether individuals who fall below these proposed cut-points are at risk for developing future negative health outcomes; 2) examine proposed cut-points in predicting future health risks above and beyond traditional indicators of morbidity and mortality; and 3) understand the role obesity may play in exacerbating future negative health outcomes among those who are considered weak.

    • Duchowny, K., Clarke, P.J., Peterson, M.D. Muscle weakness and physical disability in older Americans: Longitudinal findings from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. 2018;22(4):501–507 PMID: 29582889 PMCID: PMC6472265.
    • Duchowny, K., Peterson, M.D., Alexander, N.A. & Clarke, P.J. Cut Points for Clinical Muscle Weakness Among Older Americans. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2017;53(1), 63-69. PMID: 28190692 PMCID: PMC5497994.
    • Duchowny, K. & Clarke P. 2018. Muscle weakness among older adults: A silent epidemic. 1st annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. May 7, 2018, Ann Arbor, MI.
    • Weakness in Older Americans: Sex/Race-specific Cutpoints and Prevalence Estimates from the Health and Retirement Study. K Duchowny, M Peterson, PJ Clarke. Presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. November, 2015, Orlando, FL.
  • Cindy Lustig

    Cholinergic Genetic Effects on Health and Cognition in Older Adults: Longitudinal Analysis

    Cindy Lustig

    Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Literature, Science & the Arts


    Using the HRS representative sample of approximately 20,000 Americans over the age of 50, this pilot examines how limits in cholinergic function are related to changes in measurements of attention, memory, and cognitive status and physiological health across multiple time points.

    • Jantz, T. & Lustig, C. 2018. Cholinergic genetic effects on health and cognition in older adults: Longitudinal analysis. 1st annual MiCDA Pilot Project Symposium. May 7, 2018, Ann Arbor, MI.
    • Jantz, T & Lustig, C. Depression interacts with cholinergic genetic variant to affect cognition in older adults. LIFE Spring Academy 2017. May 21-24, 2017 Ann Arbor, University of Michigan.
    • Jantz, T., Zhou, L., & Lustig. C. (2017). Genetic variance in cholinergic efficiency interacts with depression to impact cognition in later life. Poster presented at the Psychonomic Society Annual Meeting. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Lauren Schmitz

    Demographic and Socioeconomic Differences in Polygenic Risk of Cardiovascular Health in the Health and Retirement Study

    Lauren Schmitz

    Postdoctoral Research Associate, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research


    This pilot examines the extent to which polygenic scores (PGSs) are associated with cardiovascular risk factors (i.e. systolic and diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, smoking, and alcohol use) and how these associations are modified by key demographic (i.e. sex, age) and socioeconomic factors across the life course.

    • Schmitz LL, Gard AM, and Ware EB. Examining sex differences in the association between genetic risk for depressive symptoms and smoking behavior. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2019. Jun 20. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32748. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed PMID: 31219244.
    • National Institutes on Aging. K99AG056599. Life course determinants of epigenetic age acceleration and subsequent dementia. PI: L. Schmitz.


  • Martha J. Bailey

    Changes in Health and Longevity over the 20th Century: Evidence from North Carolina

    Martha J. Bailey

    Professor, Department of Economics, College of Literature, Science & the Arts
    Research Professor, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research


    This pilot demonstrates the feasibility of creating large-scale linked vital records to study changes in health and longevity over the 20th century. The pilot lays the groundwork for a multi-state resource called The Longitudinal, Intergenerational Family Electronic Micro-Database Project (LIFE-M), a large scale longitudinal database to cover men and women born 1881-1930.

    • Bailey, M., Karimova A., Murto MJ. 2018. The Determinants of Life Expectancy in the 20th Century U.S. NBER Cohort Studies Meeting, Cambridge, MA, May 2018.
    • Bailey M, Cole C, Henderson M, Massey C. How well do automated linking methods perform? Lessons from US Historical data. Forthcoming. Journal of Economic Literature.
    • National Institute on Aging. R21AG056912. How Does Automated Record Linkage Affect Inferences about Population Health? PI: M. Bailey.
    • National Institute on Aging. R01AG057704. Longitudinal and Intergenerational Determinants of Aging and Mortality. PI: M. Bailey
    • National Institute on Aging. R01AG057679 (via Minnesota). Multigenerational Longitudinal Panel for Aging Research. Consortium PI: M. Bailey.
    • National Science Foundation. NSF 1539228. Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21). Longitudinal Intergenerational Family Electronic Micro-Database (LIFE-M). PI: M. Bailey.
  • Jessica Faul

    The Effects of Collection Procedures on Telomere Length

    Jessica Faul

    Associate Research Scientist, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research


    Telomeres serve an important role in the protection of chromosomal DNA and the regulation of cellular senescence. The goal of this project is to examine the stability of salivary telomere length when stored at room temperature for periods of up to 1 year.

    • Faul J, Mitchell C, Smith J, Zhao W. 2016. Estimating Telomere Length Heritability in an Unrelated Sample of Adults: Is Heritability of Telomere Length Modified by Life Course Socioeconomic Status? Biodemography and Social Biology, 62(1): 73-86. PMID: 27050034 PMCID: PMC5117361.
    • Smith, Jennifer A. Minjung Kho, Wei, Zhao, Miao Yu, Colter Mitchell, and Jessica D. Faul. (2018). Genetic effects and gene-by-education interactions on episodic memory performance and decline in an aging population. Social Science & Medicine 10 Nov. pii: S0277-9536(18)30653-1. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.11.019PubMed [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 30449520 PMCID: In progress.
    • Faul JD, Ware EB. Moving Beyond European Only Genetic Associations — An Examination of Within and Trans-Racial PGS and Gene-Region Associations. Integrating Genetics and Social Sciences Conference, Boulder, CO, October 19-21, 2017. Invited talk.
    • National Institutes on Aging. R01AG055654. Identifying modifiable aspects of gene-by-SES and gene-by-work interplay in later-life cognitive decline. MPI: J. Faul and T. Galama.