An Exploration of the Communication Dynamics of the Hard-to-Reach: Considering Disintegration of a Communication Infrastructure in Old Age

Carrie Leach, Julie M. Novak, Thomas B. Jankowski, Sandie Pierce, Pam Lapan


Health is influenced by social interactions and resources afforded through connections in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities. As people age, health challenges increase while their social networks decrease. This results in fewer people and resources being available to help older individuals cope with life changes and manage their health and homes where they want to age in place. We explore how communication resources and context constrain or enable connections through the lens of communication infrastructure theory. In this study, we analyze data collected from 865 residents in a Midwestern county through a random sample population survey and in-depth interviews with hard-to-reach residents aged 75 and older. This formative research offers preliminary insight into contextual dynamics that influence social and mediated communication in later life. We discuss the implications of our findings and contribution to communication scholarship and practice and discuss the ways our findings may inform efforts to foster aging in place.


communication infrastructure theory, hard-to-reach, social connectedness, aging-in-community, aging in place, communication resources

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