Sustaining Chicago’s Informal Caregivers: an Age-Friendly Approach

Rebecca Johnson*, Jon Hofacker, Lara Boyken, Amy Eisenstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The concept of age-friendliness has been globally coined by the World Health Organization (WHO) to give value to the physical, social, and environmental factors that can promote or hinder older residents’ ability to age in place in cities. The initiative has been very successful in raising awareness among public health policy makers about the generic needs of older adults and urban features that promote active aging. However, the movement has been less focused on highlighting divergent needs of different older adult populations and their informal caregivers. The objective of this mixed method study is to analyze the ratings of 397 caregivers of urban age-friendly features relative to the ratings of 1737 noncaregivers collected as part of a baseline assessment of the age-friendliness of the city of Chicago. Using the approved WHO Vancouver Protocol, the research team also conducted six mixed caregiver/noncaregiver focus groups (n = 84) and three caregiver-only focus groups (n = 21). Survey findings show that informal caregivers rate all eight age-friendly domains with less satisfaction than do noncaregivers. Discussion in focus groups highlighted some of the reasons for these less favorable ratings and foregrounded the domains and themes that mattered most to caregivers. In conclusion, while our study revealed few systematic differences between caregiver and noncaregiver survey satisfaction ratings, caregivers report significantly poorer health than do noncaregivers. In addition, caregiver-only focus groups foregrounded “missing” priority issues specific to caregivers such as respite and the quality of training and flexibility of home help care. Results suggest that one productive next step for researchers would be to widen the usual range of factors considered essential for maintaining the well-being of informal caregivers of community-dwelling older adults. The age-friendly domains provide a starting point for this. Another would be to develop integrated support and improve service responsiveness to particular caregiver/care recipient dyad’s physical, psychological, and social needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-651
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Age-friendly city
  • Baseline assessment, community wide survey
  • Informal caregiver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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