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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008 Dec;56(12):2340-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.02015.x.

Recruitment and retention of older adults in aging research.

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Geriatrics Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Older adults continue to be underrepresented in clinical research despite their burgeoning population in the United States and worldwide. Physicians often propose treatment plans for older adults based on data from studies involving primarily younger, more-functional, healthier participants. Major barriers to recruitment of older adults in aging research relate to their substantial health problems, social and cultural barriers, and potentially impaired capacity to provide informed consent. Institutionalized older adults offer another layer of complexity that requires cooperation from the institutions to participate in research activities. This paper provides study recruitment and retention techniques and strategies to address concerns and overcome barriers to older adult participation in clinical research. Key approaches include early in-depth planning; minimizing exclusion criteria; securing cooperation from all interested parties; using advisory boards, timely screening, identification, and approach of eligible patients; carefully reviewing the benefit:risk ratio to be sure it is appropriate; and employing strategies to ensure successful retention across the continuum of care. Targeting specific strategies to the condition, site, and population of interest and anticipating potential problems and promptly employing predeveloped contingency plans are keys to effective recruitment and retention.

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