Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Carla VandeWeerd, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jamie Corvin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ross Andel, Ph.D.


older caregivers, aging in place, retirement communities, qualitative research, health interventions, successful aging


Over 43.5 million Americans provide informal care to a fast-growing elderly population in the United States. Informal care allows care-recipients to remain functional members of society. However, research suggests that the demands of informal care can negatively impact the health of caregivers. For example, caregiver burden increases the risk for poor health in caregivers compared to non-caregivers. Caregiving research is on the rise, but the dynamics of informal care in active retirement communities remains widely unexplored. To provide adequate services to lessen caregiver burden and improve the Quality of Life (QoL) of informal caregivers, the various settings in which informal care is delivered must be evaluated.

Aiming to understand the needs of informal caregivers and the protective factors against caregiver burden in active retirement communities, data from the USF Health and The Villages study, conducted from October 2011 and March 2013, were analyzed. Data from twenty-nine focus groups (N=144) was used to explore the challenges faced by seniors in a caregiver role and the availability of resources that decrease caregiver burden. The primary focus was informal care and the challenges associated with the caregiver role; findings revealed a great need for caregiver relief and limited information on existing resources is available to informal caregivers. Consistent with existing literature on caregiver burden, having no personal time, financial burden, physical demands, and poor health were commonly identified as the biggest caregiving challenges. However, findings strongly suggest that the unique structure of The Villages community encourages high social support that may be the strongest protective factor against caregiver burden in the community.