This chapter includes a brief overview on qualitative and quantitative
research and the process that led to the selection of the research
design used in this study. Additional topics addressed in Chapter
3 are: design of study, age-sensitive issues in research, instrumentation,
population, data collection, data analysis, and focus group interviews.
Type of Research
A quantitative and qualitative research methodology was used to conduct this study on the quality of life issues of older adults living in rural cooperative housing. Qualitative, interpretative, research helped the researcher organize and describe subjective data in a systematic way (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992); whereas, the quantitative, positivist, mode guided the researcher on a quest for certainty and absolute truth and an insistence of objectivity (Patton, 1990).
Since the turn of the century, research has relied largely on the traditional approach to research analysis--positivist world view. The focus toward more Hermeneutic or interpretive research came into practice when family and individual issues became more prevalent (life satisfaction of single--parent teenagers). Decisions about which research paradigm to use has moved from the traditional research focus to the focus on the research question/problem/hypothesis (Patton, 1982). Research projects can be individualized: research analysis forces one to address the problem, identify the audience, determine the research paradigm, and share the impact of the research process.
Figure 3.1 illustrates this conjecture. The researcher identified the process. Note the "permission" for interaction between paradigms shown by a broken line. The technical/generalizable world view allowed movement to the practical/multiple perspective view (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Each paradigm, independent of the other, leads to impact on research. In addition, a combination or interaction of each can also lead to impact. Factors determining research methodology are: the researcher, profile of the subjects/participants, and the identified research problem.
Quantitative and qualitative research use similar elements. Each state the purpose, identify the research population, and present outcomes. Figure 3.1 shows these similarities. In both paradigms, individuals engaged in research specifically set out to collect data for a specified purpose. The researcher determined the paradigm best suited for the problem/audience/researcher. The difference was the process (elements) that was graphed along the way and the difference in the final product. The research methodology in this study used the paradigm most appropriate for the problem, audience, and research.
Figure 3.1 allows for the interaction between each paradigm but it is the researcher who identifies a framework and proceeds with rigor. This student concurs with many of the readings validating that more interactions between the paradigms will be apparent as the interpretive and critical become more prevalent and accepted in the world of research (Lincoln and Guba, 1985; Patton, 1990; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). Thus, research impacts will be rich with information. To move beyond objectivity, requires a level of mature judgement that can be achieved only by continuous interaction (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). Figure 3.1 shows the research process moving across research lines--the positivist paradigm of complete objectivity and the postpositivist paradigm with both subjectivity and objectivity producing change.
During recent years, social science researchers have become increasingly more aware of the array of quantitative and qualitative paradigms and methods. Choices are determined based on their own philosophy and assumptions as well as their research problem, recognizing there are clearly no correct or incorrect answers. Patton (1990) viewed the underlying values of research to stretch across a continuum. He believed that scholars can be most effective when they utilize the continuum at any point that best answers the research question.
Positivism assumed that there was one reality and the researcher's role was to explain, predict or control. This approach offered breadth because it allowed the researcher to collect data from many subjects on a number of well defined questions. Positivism strived to be unbiased, reliable and rational and thus appealed to many researchers. There are multiple realities within the world; consequently, for this reason the positivist approach may lack depth and richness (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 1990; Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). Underlying the apparent objective research approach of positivism were assumptions that reflect the researcher's biases. Hidden biases may be more dangerous than explicitly stated ones. Patton (1990) stated, "Distance does not guarantee objectivity; it merely guarantees distance" (pg. 480).
Postpositivist research was an interactive process in which the researcher and the participant learned from each other. It resulted in realistic understanding, interpreted through the social and cultural context of their lives (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). In-depth, detailed, rich data was produced based on the individual's personal perspectives and experiences. Postpositivist inquiry was based on an inductive reasoning process where the research design process evolved, one in which the questions to be asked and the data to be collected emerged in the process of doing the research. Qualitative researchers were quick to point out that the qualitative paradigm must tolerate and even enjoy ambiguity. Qualitative research allowed the researcher to attempt to make sense out of the interaction of lives with those of others, rather than soliciting and discovering "facts" and assuming a role of authoritarianism (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992; Krueger, 1994).
The postpositivist paradigm valued and encouraged different approaches,
encouraging insights that extended beyond the realm of measurable,
discoverable facts. In the world of quantitative research, studies
designed to explain, predict and control are prominent. Lincoln
and Guba's (1985) naturalistic inquiry expanded research purposes
to include understanding, emancipation and deconstruction. This
postpositivist paradigm valued different approaches in yielding
insights that extended beyond measurable, discoverable facts.
Design of study
Two methodological concepts introduced in this research are: 1) the use of methodological triangulation, and; 2) establishing trustworthiness. Researchers showed that triangulation of a study allowed it to reveal different things through multiple methods. The process also revealed one thing in several different ways which built strength in a study. Secondly, researchers compared trustworthiness to credibility, transferability, and confirmability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 1990; Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). Lincoln and Guba (1985) affirmed that "no amount of trustworthiness techniques built into a study would ever 'compel' anyone to accept the results of the inquiry; it could at best persuade" (pg. 329).
This study used a descriptive qualitative and quantitative research
design that examined the relationships and identified the qualities
that existed among a set of variables within a population of older
adults. The subjects/participants in the study were secured from
a census population of older adults living in rural cooperative
housing in Minnesota and Iowa HOMESTEAD housing. The methodology
followed the postpositivist paradigm of Lincoln and Guba (1985)
which emphasized the importance of the phenomenological, inductive,
and contextual approach to inquiry for research into human experience.
This research design was valuable for dealing with older adult
issues focusing on quality of life and housing preferences.
Age-Sensitive Issues in Research
Research must address the procurement of valid, reliable, meaningful, usable information in situations where participants are adults, sixty-five and older. While Patton (1990) contended that language, norm and value differences strongly influenced the success of valid, reliable, and meaningful research in a cross-cultural setting; Kane and Kane (1981) contended the same misinterpretations and miscommunications can occur based on age, 65 and older. Researchers must be aware of the external factors affecting older adult responses, such as age, physical health, mental health, education level, life experiences, and living conditions.
Ageism, age discrimination, can enter into research when the interviewer and/or researcher have preconceived expectations of how older respondents will respond (Parham, Poon & Siegler, 1990). For example, when a researcher is faced with an ambiguous answer, the researcher might interpret it in light of the kinds of responses expected from that "type of person" (i.e., "old people") and record an inaccurate response. When interacting with older adults through research, many challenges are introduced and researchers must be sensitive to and adjust the research process and methodology accordingly. These challenges are outlined below:
<li> As age increases, older adults are more likely to be non-respondents.
There was increasing research evidence that refusal to participate in a study, as well as dropping out of studies, was more common among older age groups, and especially among those age 80 and older. This non-response appeared to be more closely related to health limitations than non-response in younger groups. Other reasons found for non-response included lower educational level and lower socioeconomic status (Herzog and Rodgers, 1982).
<li> Older adult participants are more likely to answer "don't know".
"Don't Know" answers appeared to be more frequent for questions that dealt with attitudes, feelings, and opinions than for questions requesting factual information (Herzog and Rodgers, 1982). However, a "DK" answer to a factual question might truly be reflected as lack of knowledge or inability to recall the information requested. Again, some research suggested that participants with health or cognitive limitations, less education, females, and those less socially involved were more likely to provide "DK" answers (Francis & Busch, 1975; Herzog & Rodgers, 1982; Colsher & Wallace, 1989).
<li> Older adult participants are more likely to give inconsistent and contradictory answers.
Perhaps the most obvious explanation for this is the increased
likelihood of cognitive impairment or problems with memory at
older ages (Colsher & Wallace, 1989). However, the characteristics
of the research questions themselves might create response difficulties.
For example, some research showed that older adults were less
willing or able to use standardized response categories, or often
attempted to avoid selection of a response by digressing from
the question (Kane & Kane, 1981). For many older adults, inconsistent
or contradictory answers were more likely related to the format,
and sometimes content of the questions themselves, rather than
due to inaccurate reporting of factual information (Kane &
<li> Older adult participants may not understand a question.
In general, the current cohort of older adults were less well educated than younger adults. In addition, they had little experience, if any, with focus group interviews and the structured format of most survey questions. Research showed that they were more likely than younger adults to disregard the standardized format of scale questions and to answer in their own words that did not translate into the response categories provided (Kane & Kane, 1981; Colsher & Wallace, 1989). Consequently, older adults needed more assistance from the researcher or interviewer, and they needed to have questions repeated (Herzog & Rodgers, 1988). This happened even more frequently with adults over 80. (Kane & Kane, 1981).
<li> Older adult participants feel vulnerable, and can be skeptical.
Many older participants feel vulnerable, and could be skeptical of the claims and assertions of a researcher approaching them (Kane & Kane, 1981). Their fear could interfere with hearing and understanding the interviewer's description of the study. Researchers should demonstrate confidence in their approach, exhibit warmth and genuineness (Colsher & Wallace, 1989). Researchers must anticipate questions and concerns, take the time to soothe any fears, demonstrate the project's validity, and develop a rapport with the participant that earns trust.
<li> Older adults are more apt to have hearing and vision constraints.
Printed material must be on white or light paper and black ink, large font (14), and large size paper. Interview or survey response time should be kept to a reasonable length to avoid fatigue. Interviewer must speak slowly and enunciate clearly avoiding being too loud unless certain participants can not hear otherwise. Interviewer must watch and listen for impairments (mental, cognitive, hearing, visual, etc.) that might interfere with the success of the interview (Kane & Kane, 1981).
An age-sensitive researcher and interviewer can be the critical
link to the success of the research project (Kane & Kane,
1981; Herzog & Rodgers, 1982; Parham, Poon & Siegler,
The subjects and participants of this study were homogeneous and constituted a census population of older adults living in rural older adult cooperative housing. There were seven rural older adult cooperative housing units in the United States and each belonged to the same cooperative organization--HOMESTEAD Housing Centers. A list of HOMESTEAD residents was secured from the HOMESTEAD Housing Center, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. The mailing list was comprised of 163 individuals; both husband and wife listed separately. All older adults with a HOMESTEAD residence were included in the study. A 93% response rate (N=151) was obtained after four mailing waves. The demographics of the population varied in personal characteristics. Population demographics are shared in the Figures 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5.
Focus group interviews were conducted with residents at HOMESTEAD,
St. James and HOMESTEAD, Springfield. Names and addresses were
obtained from the HOMESTEAD Housing Center in Inver Grove Heights,
Minnesota. All residents at these two sites were invited to participate
in the focus group interviews: 38 accepted the invitation and
the personal characteristics of these participants are listed
in Table 3.1.
|85 and older||3||7%|
Table 3.1: Personal characteristics of FGI participants, N = 38
The HOMESTEAD centers were located in rural Midwestern communities
in Minnesota and Iowa and targeted middle-income retired older
adults. The HOMESTEAD Housing Cooperatives generally serve from
19 to 32 older adults in private garden apartments designed to
be fully accessible to residents. Because HOMESTEAD Cooperatives
were located in small towns, rural older adults, who would be
typically forced to move to larger towns to find retirement housing,
now have the option to stay in their home communities.
Data to answer the research questions were collected using two
methods: focus group interviews and a mail survey. Both designs
were used to produce a descriptive and comparative correlational
study which examined the influences of the cooperative housing
issue and issues of quality of life among rural older adults.
Focus Group Interviews
The Focus Group Interview (FGI) was a qualitative research method suitable for uncovering information about human perceptions, feelings, opinions, and thoughts. A group of people were brought together to discuss issues raised by the interviewer or moderator, which focused on the research problem. The analysis of information gathered from the focus groups was utilized to determine trends and patterns that evolved from the discussion (Higgenbotham, 1979).
This methodology had several advantages applicable to this study. First, the FGI assisted the researcher in generating research questions when little was known about the topic being researched (Higgenbotham, 1979). Secondly, questions regarding new programs or proposals could be investigated in a relatively quick and cost effective manner (Krueger, 1994).
A series of ten FGI questions (Appendix B) were developed by the researcher to guide the FGI process. The interview questions were designed to identify the quality of life among older adults living in rural cooperative housing. The Focus Group Interview questions were reviewed by Ohio State University faculty knowledgeable in the area of FGI and qualitative research. Several questions were modified based on the feedback received from the reviewers. Four FGI were assembled to include eight to ten participants each. Two FGI were held at each of two existing cooperative HOMESTEAD housing sites in St. James and Springfield, Minnesota.
The Systematic Notification Process was utilized to maximize participation of older adults who consented to be part of the research project (Krueger, 1994). This process included:
1. Personal contact was made by letter from the researcher inviting the participant to attend the focus group session (Appendix C). After full disclosure of the process, the individual was given an opportunity to participate or not to participate (Appendix D). Prior contact by telephone was made with HOMESTEAD housing board chairpersons at each site to ensure support of project.
2. A letter of confirmation was sent to the participant after acceptance of the invitation (Appendix E).
3. A telephone call was initiated to serve as a reminder 24 hours in advance of the focus group discussion.
4. A written note of appreciation was extended to FGI participants following visit (Appendix F).
FGI procedures were used as recommended by Krueger (1988) and Higgenbotham & Cox (1979). The focus group sessions were held in the community room of each HOMESTEAD facility to facilitate comfort, trust and confidentiality. Kane & Kane's (1981) research on aging-sensitivity in focus group interviews was implemented and practiced. Krueger (1994) recommended the use of incentives for participants; therefore, an appropriate gift, a picture frame, was gift wrapped and presented to each participant.
Microphones and tape recorders were used to record proceedings. An assistant moderator monitored taping and scribed interview notes during session. The researcher explained the use of tape recordings and distributed consent forms to be signed asking permission to use conversation for data collection and reporting.
Each focus group was conducted within one hour to ensure sensitivity of the older adult needs. The interviewer explained the process and gave an overview of the research focus. Ten questions addressed objectives of the research study (Appendix B). Each participant was asked to respond to each question. A set of initial questions were answered in seating order. The second and third set of questions were open to spontaneous responding. The interviewer only clarified points, presented questions, and put closure to the interview. The interviewer refrained from leading the discussion.
The tape recordings of the sessions were transcribed in narrative
written form with identification made to each speaker. A detailed
transcript of the audio tapes from each FGI was prepared and confidentiality
of participant's comments was concealed. The researcher identified
recurring topics of discussion for the summary. The researcher
reported results in a narrative form including interpretations,
judgements, and recommendations of data collected. A second researcher
reviewed tapes in same manner and the two reports were compared
and summarized which guarded against researcher bias in the focus
group review process.
An instrument was developed for measuring the quality of life among older adults in rural cooperative housing. This section discusses the instrument and its development.
The first step in developing the instrument was to develop a pool of questions for measuring quality of life characteristics and personal characteristics of older adults in rural cooperative housing. Quality of life concepts are abstract and, therefore, are difficult to measure and are prone to error. Care is needed to make sure that the measurement instrument is valid and reliable. An instrument is valid if it is measuring the right things; reliable if its measurements are consistent and accurate (Mueller, 1986). A group of questions were derived from the review of literature addressing the quality of life factors of older adults in rural communities. Additional questions were developed from the review of an instrument administered at Kansas State University (Altus, 1995) measuring older adult perceptions of cooperative housing.
The questionnaire (Appendix G) focused around several themes addressing
housing, quality of life, and personal characteristics. Questions
1-6 requested information about previous housing. Question 7-9
related to whether respondents liked or disliked rural cooperative
housing and if they would recommend cooperative housing to other
older adults. Questions 10-21 addressed factors that influenced
the decision to move to HOMESTEAD housing and these eleven questions
were summated to acquire a "Cooperative Value" which
was utilized in the data analysis. A "Quality of Life"
value was obtained by summating questions 22-30 which surveyed
quality of life issues. Questions 31, 32, and 44 were open-ended
questions asking the respondent to express what they liked most,
least, or general comments about HOMESTEAD living. Demographics
were gleaned from questions 33-43.
Measurement error had a potential of being a threat to internal
validity of this study. In an attempt to control this threat,
content validity of a 50-item instrument was assessed by a panel
of experts. Eight Ohio State University Extension and Agricultural
Education faculty were asked to review the instrument to determine
if the instrument adequately measured the objectives of the research
study (Appendix H). Recommendations by the panel were incorporated
in the instrument revisions and unclear or inappropriate items
were deleted from the final version. A 44-item questionnaire emerged
from the instrument development process. A three-point Likert
scale was used for each question. Question 10 through question
21 response categories were 0 = Did not influence me, 1 = Somewhat
influenced me, and 2 = Influenced me. Whereas, question 22 through
question 30 response categories were -1 = Negative, 0 = No effect,
and +1 = Positive effect.
The instrument was tested for stability by test-retest reliability to determine if the same results were obtained from the same subjects over a period of time. Sixteen HOMESTEAD residents were asked to complete the questionnaire. The pilot population of sixteen was a sample of the census population. The questionnaire and a letter of explanation were sent using the same process determined for the actual study and all 16 were returned. Two weeks later a second mailing was sent to the same test-retest group using previous mailing process. The responses of each resident were compared item by item from the first test to the retest. Agreement was ruled to exist if a respondent marked either a 2 (influenced) or a 1 (somewhat influenced) on the first set of questions. Likewise, on the second set of questions, matches were considered consistent if responses were -1 (negative) or 0 (no effect). When responses agreed, a match was indicated by a score of one. However, if a subject responded differently on the retest, no match was ruled; therefore, a score of zero was assigned for that response item. All the matches for an item were summated and a proportion of the possible matches calculated to give a reliability coefficient for each individual item. The items within each of the two groups of questions were then added and their coefficients averaged to yield a reliability coefficient for the two groups. These coefficients are shared in Table 3.2.
|Question||Reliability Coefficients||Question||Reliability Coefficients|
Table 3.2: Test-retest reliability coefficients for questionnaire
Permission to administer questionnaire was granted by The Ohio State University Human Subjects Review (Appendix I), Ohio State University Extension and HOMESTEAD Corporation.
A mailed questionnaire (Appendix G) was used to gather the data
and was mailed to 163 rural Minnesota and Iowa HOMESTEAD residents.
A census population was used and a mailing list was secured from
the HOMESTEAD Corporation. HOMESTEAD housing was the only type
of rural cooperative housing for older adults in the United States.
The questionnaire was age sensitive using large font, light colored
paper, simple response options and short in length. A booklet
style questionnaire (81/2 X 11) was designed to accommodate the
dexterity of older adults. All individuals living in HOMESTEAD
cooperative housing were sent a questionnaire with a cover letter
explaining the study and request (Appendix J). Four mailing waves
were used to insure the highest possible return rate of participant
response, 93%. A questionnaire, cover letter, stamped, self-addressed
envelope, and gift incentive were sent to nonrespondents in each
wave cycle (Appendices K & L). To ensure confidentiality,
a code number was assigned to each questionnaire which corresponded
to the number designated to each subject.
By February 15, 1997, 151 individuals of the 163 potential respondents had returned the HOMESTEAD mail questionnaire; with response rate of 93%. Due to the high response rate in the fist and second mailings (89%), it was decided not to compare early responses (first and second wave) to late respondents (third and fourth wave). The 151 HOMESTEAD residents were from the seven existing HOMETSTEAD Housing centers in Minnesota and Iowa. Four of the returned questionnaires was returned by a spouse or relative indicating the recipient had moved to a assisted-living facility, ill, or was deceased; each of these four questionnaires did share verbal comments and some demographic characteristics about the each of the intended respondents. The unanswered questions were coded as missing data.
Responses to the survey items were entered into the SPSS-PC+ for Windows database. For ease in data entry, responses to questions 10 through 21 were coded 0 - "influenced me", 1 - "somewhat influenced me, and 2 - "did not influence me". During data analysis the coding was changed to 0 - "did not influence me", 1 - "somewhat influenced me", and 2 - "influenced me". Frequencies and percentages were calculated for each question. The higher the score the greater the influence of the identified variable. Questions 10 through 21 related to the variables that influenced the individual to select HOMESTEAD cooperative living. Scores on this set of questions were summated and a total value assigned to each respondent. This value was termed "cooperative value".
The data entry codes for questions 22 through 30 were 0 - "negative", 1 - "no effect", and 2 - "positive effect". The coding was changed in the data analysis process to (-)1 "negative", 0 "no effect", and (+)1 "positive effect". Frequencies and percentages were calculated indicating the more positive the number, the greater the variable effect on the quality of life dimension. Reversely, the greater the negative number the, the more negative effect the variable has on quality of life. To obtain a "quality of life" value for each respondent, questions 22 through 30 were summated and one score assigned to represent a collection of quality of life demensions.
In the analysis process, descriptive statistics (frequencies and percentages) were calculated for each of the categorical and nominal variables. Pearson product-moment correlations were conducted to determine the amount and direction of any relationship between the metric data (cooperative value and quality of life value). Point-biserical correlations were used to determine relationships between categorical and interval variables. In addition, each research objective was addressed in the following way:
Objective 1: Identify the reasons why older adults choose to move to cooperative housing. Eleven questions (10 - 21) addressed factors that influenced individuals to move to HOMESTEAD Cooperatives. Each question was reported in frequencies and percentages. To obtain a total "Cooperative" value, a summated group score was calculated and mean reported. Verbal comments from the open-ended questions on the mail survey and the conversations from the focus group interviews were summarized and shared.
Objective 2: Describe the effects living in rural cooperative housing has on older adults. Nine questions (22-30) assessed the qualtiy of life factors effects on each respondent. Frequencies and percentages were computed and reported. These nine variables were summated and a total "Quality of Life" value determined and mean shared.
Verbal comments from the open-ended questions on the mail survey and the conversations from the focus group interiveiws were summarized and shared.
Objective 3: Describe the personal characteristics of older adults living in rural cooperative housing. Demographic information was gleaned and frequencies and percentages reported.
Objective 4: Determine the qualtiy of life of the HOMESTEAD residents.
Conjectures were made based on the descriptive statistics and
the compilation of the FGI scripts. Pearson product-moment correlations
were calculated to determine the amount and direction of relationships
between selected variables. The convention for describing measures
of association as defined by Davis (1971) was used for interpretation
(Table 3.3). Only associations of .30 or higher (moderate to very
strong) were deemed to be of value.
.70 or higher - Very strong association
.50 to .69 - Substantial association
.30 to .49 - Moderate association
.10 to .29 - Low association
.01 to .09 - Negligible association
Source: Davis, Elementary Survey Analysis, 1971
Table 3.3: Davis convention for interpreting measures of associations