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This chapter includes a brief overview on qualitative and quantitativeresearch and the process that led to the selection of the researchdesign used in this study. Additional topics addressed in Chapter3 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 toconduct this study on the quality of life issues of older adultsliving in rural cooperative housing. Qualitative, interpretative,research helped the researcher organize and describe subjectivedata in a systematic way (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992); whereas,the quantitative, positivist, mode guided the researcher on aquest for certainty and absolute truth and an insistence of objectivity(Patton, 1990).

Since the turn of the century, research has relied largely onthe traditional approach to research analysis--positivist worldview. The focus toward more Hermeneutic or interpretive researchcame into practice when family and individual issues became moreprevalent (life satisfaction of single--parent teenagers). Decisionsabout which research paradigm to use has moved from the traditionalresearch focus to the focus on the research question/problem/hypothesis(Patton, 1982). Research projects can be individualized: researchanalysis forces one to address the problem, identify the audience,determine the research paradigm, and share the impact of the researchprocess.

Figure 3.1 illustrates this conjecture. The researcher identifiedthe process. Note the "permission" for interaction betweenparadigms shown by a broken line. The technical/generalizableworld view allowed movement to the practical/multiple perspectiveview (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Each paradigm, independentof the other, leads to impact on research. In addition, a combinationor interaction of each can also lead to impact. Factors determiningresearch methodology are: the researcher, profile of the subjects/participants,and the identified research problem.

Quantitative and qualitative research use similar elements. Eachstate the purpose, identify the research population, and presentoutcomes. Figure 3.1 shows these similarities. In both paradigms,individuals engaged in research specifically set out to collectdata for a specified purpose. The researcher determined the paradigmbest suited for the problem/audience/researcher. The differencewas the process (elements) that was graphed along the way andthe difference in the final product. The research methodologyin this study used the paradigm most appropriate for the problem,audience, and research.

Figure 3.1 allows for the interaction between each paradigm butit is the researcher who identifies a framework and proceedswith rigor. This student concurs with many of the readings validatingthat more interactions between the paradigms will be apparentas the interpretive and critical become more prevalent and acceptedin the world of research (Lincoln and Guba, 1985; Patton, 1990;Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). Thus, research impacts will be richwith information. To move beyond objectivity, requires a levelof mature judgement that can be achieved only by continuous interaction(Lincoln and Guba, 1985). Figure 3.1 shows the research processmoving across research lines--the positivist paradigm of completeobjectivity and the postpositivist paradigm with both subjectivityand objectivity producing change.

During recent years, social science researchers have become increasinglymore aware of the array of quantitative and qualitative paradigmsand methods. Choices are determined based on their own philosophyand assumptions as well as their research problem, recognizingthere 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 utilizethe continuum at any point that best answers the research question.

Positivism assumed that there was one reality and the researcher'srole was to explain, predict or control. This approach offeredbreadth because it allowed the researcher to collect data frommany subjects on a number of well defined questions. Positivismstrived to be unbiased, reliable and rational and thus appealedto many researchers. There are multiple realities within the world;consequently, for this reason the positivist approach may lackdepth and richness (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 1990; Strauss& Corbin, 1990; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). Underlying theapparent objective research approach of positivism were assumptionsthat reflect the researcher's biases. Hidden biases may be moredangerous than explicitly stated ones. Patton (1990) stated, "Distancedoes not guarantee objectivity; it merely guarantees distance"(pg. 480).

Postpositivist research was an interactive process in whichthe researcher and the participant learned from each other. Itresulted in realistic understanding, interpreted through the socialand cultural context of their lives (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).In-depth, detailed, rich data was produced based on the individual'spersonal perspectives and experiences. Postpositivist inquirywas based on an inductive reasoning process where the researchdesign process evolved, one in which the questions to be askedand the data to be collected emerged in the process of doing theresearch. Qualitative researchers were quick to point out thatthe qualitative paradigm must tolerate and even enjoy ambiguity.Qualitative research allowed the researcher to attempt to makesense out of the interaction of lives with those of others, ratherthan soliciting and discovering "facts" and assuminga 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, studiesdesigned to explain, predict and control are prominent. Lincolnand Guba's (1985) naturalistic inquiry expanded research purposesto include understanding, emancipation and deconstruction. Thispostpositivist paradigm valued different approaches in yieldinginsights 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) establishingtrustworthiness. Researchers showed that triangulation of a studyallowed it to reveal different things through multiple methods.The process also revealed one thing in several different wayswhich built strength in a study. Secondly, researchers comparedtrustworthiness to credibility, transferability, and confirmability(Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 1990; Strauss & Corbin,1990; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). Lincoln and Guba (1985) affirmedthat "no amount of trustworthiness techniques built intoa study would ever 'compel' anyone to accept the results of theinquiry; it could at best persuade" (pg. 329).

This study used a descriptive qualitative and quantitative researchdesign that examined the relationships and identified the qualitiesthat existed among a set of variables within a population of olderadults. The subjects/participants in the study were secured froma census population of older adults living in rural cooperativehousing in Minnesota and Iowa HOMESTEAD housing. The methodologyfollowed 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 adultissues 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 ofvalid, reliable, and meaningful research in a cross-cultural setting;Kane and Kane (1981) contended the same misinterpretations andmiscommunications can occur based on age, 65 and older. Researchersmust 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 interviewerand/or researcher have preconceived expectations of how olderrespondents will respond (Parham, Poon & Siegler, 1990). Forexample, when a researcher is faced with an ambiguous answer,the researcher might interpret it in light of the kinds of responsesexpected from that "type of person" (i.e., "oldpeople") and record an inaccurate response. When interactingwith older adults through research, many challenges are introducedand researchers must be sensitive to and adjust the research processand methodology accordingly. These challenges are outlined below:

<li> As age increases, older adults are more likely to benon-respondents.

There was increasing research evidence that refusal to participatein a study, as well as dropping out of studies, was more commonamong older age groups, and especially among those age 80 andolder. This non-response appeared to be more closely related tohealth limitations than non-response in younger groups. Otherreasons found for non-response included lower educational leveland 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 forquestions that dealt with attitudes, feelings, and opinions thanfor questions requesting factual information (Herzog and Rodgers,1982). However, a "DK" answer to a factual questionmight truly be reflected as lack of knowledge or inability torecall the information requested. Again, some research suggestedthat participants with health or cognitive limitations, less education,females, and those less socially involved were more likely toprovide "DK" answers (Francis & Busch, 1975; Herzog& Rodgers, 1982; Colsher & Wallace, 1989).

<li> Older adult participants are more likely to give inconsistentand contradictory answers.

Perhaps the most obvious explanation for this is the increasedlikelihood of cognitive impairment or problems with memory atolder ages (Colsher & Wallace, 1989). However, the characteristicsof the research questions themselves might create response difficulties.For example, some research showed that older adults were lesswilling or able to use standardized response categories, or oftenattempted to avoid selection of a response by digressing fromthe question (Kane & Kane, 1981). For many older adults, inconsistentor contradictory answers were more likely related to the format,and sometimes content of the questions themselves, rather thandue to inaccurate reporting of factual information (Kane &Kane, 1981).

<li> Older adult participants may not understand a question.

In general, the current cohort of older adults were less welleducated than younger adults. In addition, they had little experience,if any, with focus group interviews and the structured formatof most survey questions. Research showed that they were morelikely than younger adults to disregard the standardized formatof scale questions and to answer in their own words that did nottranslate into the response categories provided (Kane & Kane,1981; Colsher & Wallace, 1989). Consequently, older adultsneeded more assistance from the researcher or interviewer, andthey 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 canbe skeptical.

Many older participants feel vulnerable, and could be skepticalof the claims and assertions of a researcher approaching them(Kane & Kane, 1981). Their fear could interfere with hearingand understanding the interviewer's description of the study.Researchers should demonstrate confidence in their approach, exhibitwarmth and genuineness (Colsher & Wallace, 1989). Researchersmust anticipate questions and concerns, take the time to sootheany fears, demonstrate the project's validity, and develop a rapportwith the participant that earns trust.

<li> Older adults are more apt to have hearing and visionconstraints.

Printed material must be on white or light paper and black ink,large font (14), and large size paper. Interview or survey responsetime should be kept to a reasonable length to avoid fatigue. Interviewermust speak slowly and enunciate clearly avoiding being too loudunless certain participants can not hear otherwise. Interviewermust 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 criticallink to the success of the research project (Kane & Kane,1981; Herzog & Rodgers, 1982; Parham, Poon & Siegler,1990).


The subjects and participants of this study were homogeneous andconstituted a census population of older adults living in ruralolder adult cooperative housing. There were seven rural olderadult cooperative housing units in the United States and eachbelonged to the same cooperative organization--HOMESTEAD HousingCenters. A list of HOMESTEAD residents was secured from the HOMESTEADHousing Center, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. The mailing listwas comprised of 163 individuals; both husband and wife listedseparately. All older adults with a HOMESTEAD residence were includedin the study. A 93% response rate (N=151) was obtained after fourmailing waves. The demographics of the population varied in personalcharacteristics. Population demographics are shared in the Figures3.2, 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5.

Focus group interviews were conducted with residents at HOMESTEAD,St. James and HOMESTEAD, Springfield. Names and addresses wereobtained from the HOMESTEAD Housing Center in Inver Grove Heights,Minnesota. All residents at these two sites were invited to participatein the focus group interviews: 38 accepted the invitation andthe personal characteristics of these participants are listedin Table 3.1.

Personal Characteristics Frequencies Percentages
14 38%
Female 24 62%
Marital Status
14 38%
Widowed 21 55%
Never Married 3 7%
23 61%
75-84 12 32%
85 and older 3 7%

Table 3.1: Personal characteristics of FGI participants, N = 38

The HOMESTEAD centers were located in rural Midwestern communitiesin Minnesota and Iowa and targeted middle-income retired olderadults. The HOMESTEAD Housing Cooperatives generally serve from19 to 32 older adults in private garden apartments designed tobe fully accessible to residents. Because HOMESTEAD Cooperativeswere located in small towns, rural older adults, who would betypically forced to move to larger towns to find retirement housing,now have the option to stay in their home communities.

Data Collection

Data to answer the research questions were collected using twomethods: focus group interviews and a mail survey. Both designswere used to produce a descriptive and comparative correlationalstudy which examined the influences of the cooperative housingissue and issues of quality of life among rural older adults.

Focus Group Interviews

The Focus Group Interview (FGI) was a qualitative research methodsuitable for uncovering information about human perceptions, feelings,opinions, and thoughts. A group of people were brought togetherto discuss issues raised by the interviewer or moderator, whichfocused on the research problem. The analysis of information gatheredfrom the focus groups was utilized to determine trends and patternsthat evolved from the discussion (Higgenbotham, 1979).

This methodology had several advantages applicable to this study.First, the FGI assisted the researcher in generating researchquestions when little was known about the topic being researched(Higgenbotham, 1979). Secondly, questions regarding new programsor proposals could be investigated in a relatively quick and costeffective manner (Krueger, 1994).

A series of ten FGI questions (Appendix B) were developed by theresearcher to guide the FGI process. The interview questions weredesigned to identify the quality of life among older adults livingin rural cooperative housing. The Focus Group Interview questionswere reviewed by Ohio State University faculty knowledgeable inthe area of FGI and qualitative research. Several questions weremodified based on the feedback received from the reviewers. Four FGI were assembled to includeeight to tenparticipants each. Two FGI were held at each of two existing cooperativeHOMESTEAD housing sites in St. James and Springfield, Minnesota.

The Systematic Notification Process was utilized to maximize participationof 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 invitingthe participant to attend the focus group session (Appendix C).After full disclosure of the process, the individual was givenan opportunity to participate or not to participate (AppendixD). Prior contact by telephone was made with HOMESTEAD housingboard chairpersons at each site to ensure support of project.

2. A letter of confirmation was sent to the participant afteracceptance of the invitation (Appendix E).

3. A telephone call was initiated to serve as a reminder 24 hoursin advance of the focus group discussion.

4. A written note of appreciation was extended to FGI participantsfollowing visit (Appendix F).

FGI procedures were used as recommended by Krueger (1988) andHiggenbotham & Cox (1979). The focus group sessions were heldin the community room of each HOMESTEAD facility to facilitatecomfort, trust and confidentiality. Kane & Kane's (1981) researchon aging-sensitivity in focus group interviews was implementedand practiced. Krueger (1994) recommended the use of incentivesfor 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 interviewnotes during session. The researcher explained the use of taperecordings and distributed consent forms to be signed asking permissionto use conversation for data collection and reporting.

Each focus group was conducted within one hour to ensure sensitivityof the older adult needs. The interviewer explained the processand gave an overview of the research focus. Ten questions addressedobjectives of the research study (Appendix B). Each participantwas asked to respond to each question. A set of initial questionswere answered in seating order. The second and third set of questionswere open to spontaneous responding. The interviewer only clarifiedpoints, presented questions, and put closure to the interview.The interviewer refrained from leading the discussion.

The tape recordings of the sessions were transcribed in narrativewritten form with identification made to each speaker. A detailedtranscript of the audio tapes from each FGI was prepared and confidentialityof participant's comments was concealed. The researcher identifiedrecurring topics of discussion for the summary. The researcherreported results in a narrative form including interpretations,judgements, and recommendations of data collected. A second researcherreviewed tapes in same manner and the two reports were comparedand summarized which guarded against researcher bias in the focusgroup review process.


An instrument was developed for measuring the quality of lifeamong older adults in rural cooperative housing. This sectiondiscusses the instrument and its development.

The first step in developing the instrument was to develop a poolof questions for measuring quality of life characteristics andpersonal characteristics of older adults in rural cooperativehousing. Quality of life concepts are abstract and, therefore,are difficult to measure and are prone to error. Care is neededto make sure that the measurement instrument is valid and reliable.An instrument is valid if it is measuring the right things; reliableif its measurements are consistent and accurate (Mueller, 1986).A group of questions were derived from the review of literatureaddressing the quality of life factors of older adults in ruralcommunities. Additional questions were developed from the reviewof an instrument administered at Kansas State University (Altus,1995) measuring older adult perceptions of cooperative housing.

The questionnaire (Appendix G) focused around several themes addressinghousing, quality of life, and personal characteristics. Questions1-6 requested information about previous housing. Question 7-9related to whether respondents liked or disliked rural cooperativehousing and if they would recommend cooperative housing to otherolder adults. Questions 10-21 addressed factors that influencedthe decision to move to HOMESTEAD housing and these eleven questionswere summated to acquire a "Cooperative Value" whichwas utilized in the data analysis. A "Quality of Life"value was obtained by summating questions 22-30 which surveyedquality of life issues. Questions 31, 32, and 44 were open-endedquestions asking the respondent to express what they liked most,least, or general comments about HOMESTEAD living. Demographicswere gleaned from questions 33-43.

Content Validity

Measurement error had a potential of being a threat to internalvalidity of this study. In an attempt to control this threat,content validity of a 50-item instrument was assessed by a panelof experts. Eight Ohio State University Extension and AgriculturalEducation faculty were asked to review the instrument to determineif the instrument adequately measured the objectives of the researchstudy (Appendix H). Recommendations by the panel were incorporatedin the instrument revisions and unclear or inappropriate itemswere deleted from the final version. A 44-item questionnaire emergedfrom the instrument development process. A three-point Likertscale was used for each question. Question 10 through question21 response categories were 0 = Did not influence me, 1 = Somewhatinfluenced me, and 2 = Influenced me. Whereas, question 22 throughquestion 30 response categories were -1 = Negative, 0 = No effect,and +1 = Positive effect.


The instrument was tested for stability by test-retest reliabilityto determine if the same results were obtained from the same subjectsover a period of time. Sixteen HOMESTEAD residents were askedto complete the questionnaire. The pilot population of sixteenwas a sample of the census population. The questionnaire and aletter of explanation were sent using the same process determinedfor the actual study and all 16 were returned. Two weeks latera second mailing was sent to the same test-retest group usingprevious mailing process. The responses of each resident werecompared item by item from the first test to the retest. Agreementwas 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 consistentif responses were -1 (negative) or 0 (no effect). When responsesagreed, a match was indicated by a score of one. However, if asubject 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 ofthe possible matches calculated to give a reliability coefficientfor each individual item. The items within each of the two groupsof questions were then added and their coefficients averaged toyield a reliability coefficient for the two groups. These coefficientsare shared in Table 3.2.

Question Reliability CoefficientsQuestion Reliability Coefficients












Summated Value:























Summated Value:











Table 3.2: Test-retest reliability coefficients for questionnaire

Permission to administer questionnaire was granted by The OhioState University Human Subjects Review (Appendix I), Ohio StateUniversity Extension and HOMESTEAD Corporation.

Mail Survey

A mailed questionnaire (Appendix G) was used to gather the dataand was mailed to 163 rural Minnesota and Iowa HOMESTEAD residents.A census population was used and a mailing list was secured fromthe HOMESTEAD Corporation. HOMESTEAD housing was the only typeof rural cooperative housing for older adults in the United States.The questionnaire was age sensitive using large font, light coloredpaper, simple response options and short in length. A bookletstyle questionnaire (81/2 X 11) was designed to accommodate thedexterity of older adults. All individuals living in HOMESTEADcooperative housing were sent a questionnaire with a cover letterexplaining the study and request (Appendix J). Four mailing waveswere used to insure the highest possible return rate of participantresponse, 93%. A questionnaire, cover letter, stamped, self-addressedenvelope, and gift incentive were sent to nonrespondents in eachwave cycle (Appendices K & L). To ensure confidentiality,a code number was assigned to each questionnaire which correspondedto the number designated to each subject.

Data Analysis

By February 15, 1997, 151 individuals of the 163 potential respondentshad returned the HOMESTEAD mail questionnaire; with response rateof 93%. Due to the high response rate in the fist and second mailings(89%), it was decided not to compare early responses (first andsecond wave) to late respondents (third and fourth wave). The151 HOMESTEAD residents were from the seven existing HOMETSTEADHousing centers in Minnesota and Iowa. Four of the returned questionnaireswas returned by a spouse or relative indicating the recipienthad moved to a assisted-living facility, ill, or was deceased;each of these four questionnaires did share verbal comments andsome demographic characteristics about the each of the intendedrespondents. The unanswered questions were coded as missing data.

Responses to the survey items were entered into the SPSS-PC+ forWindows database. For ease in data entry, responses to questions10 through 21 were coded 0 - "influenced me", 1 - "somewhatinfluenced me, and 2 - "did not influence me". Duringdata analysis the coding was changed to 0 - "did not influenceme", 1 - "somewhat influenced me", and 2 - "influencedme". Frequencies and percentages were calculated for eachquestion. The higher the score the greater the influence of theidentified variable. Questions 10 through 21 related to the variablesthat influenced the individual to select HOMESTEAD cooperativeliving. Scores on this set of questions were summated and a totalvalue assigned to each respondent. This value was termed "cooperativevalue".

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 "positiveeffect". Frequencies and percentages were calculated indicatingthe more positive the number, the greater the variable effecton the quality of life dimension. Reversely, the greater the negativenumber the, the more negative effect the variable has on qualityof life. To obtain a "quality of life" value for each respondent, questions 22 through 30 were summated and onescore assigned to represent a collection of quality of life demensions.

In the analysis process, descriptive statistics (frequencies andpercentages) were calculated for each of the categorical and nominalvariables. Pearson product-moment correlations were conductedto determine the amount and direction of any relationship betweenthe metric data (cooperative value and quality of life value).Point-biserical correlations were used to determine relationshipsbetween categorical and interval variables. In addition, eachresearch objective was addressed in the following way:

Objective 1: Identify the reasons why older adults choose to moveto cooperative housing. Eleven questions (10 - 21) addressed factorsthat influenced individuals to move to HOMESTEAD Cooperatives.Each question was reported in frequencies and percentages. Toobtain a total "Cooperative" value, a summated groupscore was calculated and mean reported. Verbal comments from theopen-ended questions on the mail survey and the conversationsfrom the focus group interviews were summarized and shared.

Objective 2: Describe the effects living in rural cooperativehousing has on older adults. Nine questions (22-30) assessed thequaltiy of life factors effects on each respondent. Frequenciesand percentages were computed and reported. These nine variableswere summated and a total "Quality of Life" value determinedand mean shared.

Verbal comments from the open-ended questions on the mail surveyand the conversations from the focus group interiveiws were summarizedand shared.

Objective 3: Describe the personal characteristics of older adultsliving in rural cooperative housing. Demographic information wasgleaned and frequencies and percentages reported.

Objective 4: Determine the qualtiy of life of the HOMESTEAD residents.Conjectures were made based on the descriptive statistics andthe compilation of the FGI scripts. Pearson product-moment correlationswere calculated to determine the amount and direction of relationshipsbetween selected variables. The convention for describing measuresof association as defined by Davis (1971) was used for interpretation(Table 3.3). Only associations of .30 or higher (moderate to verystrong) were deemed to be of value.

Coefficient Description

.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

(C) Copyright by Jill Eversole Nolan 1997
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