Aging research in multi-ethinic rural communities: Gaining entrée through community involvement

Sara A. Quandt, Juliana McDonald, Ronny A. Bell, Thomas A. Arcury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


For aging research in rural multi-ethnic communities to be successful, research barriers must be anticipated, understood, and accommodated or reduced. This paper describes 'gaining entrée' into rural multi-ethnic communities in order to conduct effective aging research. The result of carefully 'gaining entrée' is increased communication with and more in-depth understanding of the study participants. An elder-centered conceptual model of rural communities is presented to demonstrate the points at which entrée can most efficiently be gained. Barriers from the perspectives of the researcher and the elderly research participants are discussed, and recommendations are given to overcome these barriers. Using examples from the Rural Nutrition and Health Study (RUN), the model is evaluated and a series of general recommendations for conducting aging research successfully in rural multi-ethnic communities is presented. By intensifying the quality of involvement of the research team with and knowledge of the community, the overall quality of the research data is enhanced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Rural Nutrition and Health Study (RUN) is a three-year study funded by the National Institute on Aging. Its purpose is to understand ethnic variation in the trajectory of nutritional self-management of adults aged 70 years and older using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods (Quandt et al. 1998). Data are collected in a series of four in-depth interviews conducted with older adults over the course of a year in their homes. Topics of interview modules include health behavior, health beliefs, dietary intake, religion, self-care, informal support, and formal service use. The nature of qualitative inquiry demands that informants be comfortable with interviewers, allowing the informants to speak freely in response to open-ended questions that attempts to tap their feelings and ideas, as well as self-reports of their actions and that of others. While a representative group of elder informants is needed, random sampling and cold calls as might be used in survey research rarely work for recruiting subjects for qualitative in-depth interviews. Therefore, our recruitment plan is based on obtaining referrals of elders through as wide as possible an assortment of community contacts (Arcury & Quandt 1999). The research site consists of two rural communities (counties) in eastern North Carolina. The communities were chosen because of the sizeable minority populations (African American and Native American) and the significant number of older adults with incomes below the poverty line. In one country, the population 70 years and older is 27% African American and 23% Native American; 32% of the elderly population is below the poverty line. In the second county, approximately 19% of the population 70 years and older is African American, and 26% are below the poverty line. This study uses the recent structural operationalization of Butler and Beale (1994) that uses population size and location relative to a metropolitan area to place all US counties on a continuum of rurality that ranges from 9 for the most rural to 0 for least. One county is classified as rural-nonmetropolitan with a Beale code of 6, while the other is rural-nonmetropolitan with a Beale code of 4. While each county is primarily rural, there are small towns in each, and there is a small city in one.

Funding Information:
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  • Minority aging
  • Qualitative research
  • Research methods
  • Social gerontology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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