Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Pepper Faculty Receive Grant Award to Study Pets’ Benefits to Aging

July 28, 2017

At the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics World Congress in San Francisco, July 24, 2017, Assistant Professor of Sociology Dawn Carr, an associate of the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, and Professor of Psychology Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, an affiliate of the institute, received a $50,000 grant for research on the impact of Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) on healthy aging in older adults (50+) and/or their caregivers.

Carr and Sachs-Ericsson will test the hypothesis that a companion animal is beneficial to health in older people, particularly those who are socially isolated and experience a major social loss.

The grant, provided by the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in collaboration with Mars Petcare and the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, will allow the researchers to work with an underutilized data set, the national Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Survey, to better understand how social context shapes the relevance of companion animals for a range of health problems later in life, particularly for vulnerable older adults.

The conference features HAI-related events as part of GSA’s interest in a multidisciplinary approach to the emerging field of study. Life expectancy has vastly increased in many parts of the world, and while pet ownership and other types of HAI have demonstrated benefits to human health, very little is known about the potential role that pets may play in healthy aging, such as mitigating loneliness, isolation, and depression and enhancing mobility and cognitive function.

Carr and Sachs-Ericsson are among several FSU faculty members connected with the Pepper Institute attending the GSA conference, including institute Director Anne Barrett and Associate Miles Taylor, associate professor of sociology.

At a special conference session,Taylor received her previously reported Busse Award (see this link) in recognition of her significant contributions to research on aging. She presented her work on life course determinants of health trajectories in older adulthood at a special conference session.

Sociology grad student Stephanie Ureña was also at the conference, presenting her research (in conjunction with Taylor and Carr), The Effect of Resilience on Mental Health Trajectories of Older Veterans.

Ureña recently received the 2017-2018 Claude and Mildred Pepper Dissertation Fellowship awarded by the institute and the Claude Pepper Center, both of which are housed within the Florida State University College of Social Sciences and Public Policy.

Miles Taylor and Stephanie Ureña at the International Association
of Gerontology and Geriatrics World Congress.