ESRA 2019 Programme at a Glance

Methodological Issues in Surveying Older people 1

Session Organisers Mr Jan-Lucas Schanze (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences (Dept. Survey Design and Methodology))
Dr Emanuela Sala (Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milano Bicocca)
Dr Annette Scherpenzeel (SHARE – Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) )
Professor Wander van der Vaart (University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht)
Ms Daniele Zaccaria (Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milano Bicocca)
TimeWednesday 17th July, 14:00 - 15:00
Room D16

The fast ageing processes which European societies are going through lead to a situation that has never existed before. Many of the current pension systems in European countries will in the long term be unsustainable, the costs of health care are steadily rising and intergenerational cohesion seems to be threatened. The key to meet these manifold challenges is knowledge. National and international surveys that target on or cover the ageing population groups can deliver this knowledge but face special methodological issues. For example:
• strong systematic nonresponse related to health problems
• cognitive impairments affecting data quality
• restricted use of modes (online, mobile)
• the need of specific interviewer skills and training
• conversion of gate keepers who refuse / hesitate to let an elderly person be interviewed
• use of proxy interviews or 'triad interviews' and consequences for data quality.
• undercoverage of the institutionalized elderly
• tracing which panel members died
With this outline, we invite papers addressing any of the topics mentioned above or other issues of surveying the elderly, as well as papers presenting potential survey tools that might help to improve data collection among the elderly and reduce sources or error.

Keywords: ageing, elderly, coverage, bias, health, cognition, data quality, gate keepers, proxy, traid interviews, institutionalized population

A New Questionnaire on the Mobility of Retirees: Results from a Mixed-Mode Pretest

Dr Laura Ravazzini (University of Neuchâtel) - Presenting Author
Professor Eric Crettaz (Haute école de travail social (HETS) Genève)

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The elderly are often affected by health problems, such as hearing or vision impairments, and a mixed-mode questionnaire could be a valid solution to help them in the answering process. We tested the validity of a mixed-mode design (CATI, CAWI and PAPI) with a pretest questionnaire about the mobility of retirees living in Switzerland. The aim of the questionnaire is subjected to a double challenge: the health conditions of the targeted population, which creates difficulties in the answering process, and the availability of very mobile individuals, which makes them hard to reach by interviewers. This double challenge can potentially justify the use of mixed-mode design. The questionnaire is designed to be relatively short and to require around 10-15 minutes to be completed independently from the mode.
Our sample is composed of people older than 63 (for women) and 65 (for men), who have completely retired or are still active despite having passed the retirement age. The questionnaire collects information about a wide range of quality of life dimensions, including work and childcare activities, short and long visits to foreign countries, transportation, the use of new technologies, health and administration, social capital and social network. Questions about the use of new technologies and sensitive questions affected by social desirability, such as the frequency people go abroad to buy products that would be too expensive in Switzerland, highlight effects linked to the administrated mode.
Comparing unit and item non-response, results identify which mode is the most appropriate and for which type of question. Moreover, results clarify how to reduce the response burden for older people. This pretest serves as a basis for a future questionnaire on a larger scale and the information collected will allow for modifications in the formulation of the administrated questions and possible answers.

Effects of a Mixed-Mode Design on the Participation of People Aged 65+ Years - Results from the Study ‘Improving Health Monitoring in Old Age (IMOA)’

Mr Matthias Wetzstein (Robert Koch Institute ) - Presenting Author
Dr Beate Gaertner (Robert Koch Institute )
Mrs Carmen Koschollek (Robert Koch Institute )
Dr Maike Grube (Robert Koch Institute )
Dr Denise Lüdtke (Robert Koch Institute )
Dr Judith Fuchs (Robert Koch Institute )

A great challenge in population based surveys is the integration of very old and physically or cognitively impaired elderly people. In previous health monitoring surveys of the Robert Koch Institute, these subpopulations could only be included insufficiently. As part of the feasibility study ‘Improving Health Monitoring in Old Age (IMOA)’, funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation, a survey design was developed and tested to reduce participation barriers for this hard-to-reach population.
A register-based random sample of 2,000 individuals 65 years and older was initially contacted by mail to answer a paper-based health questionnaire. In the next step a random selection of initial non-respondents was contacted either by telephone (if a number was available) or by home visit. Regardless of the way of contacting, the respondents always had the choice between completing the questionnaire at home, in a telephone or a personal interview. Proxy participation was possible.
Between October 2017 and April 2018, a total of 879 individuals participated. Of those, 747 individuals participated within the first step (postal recruitment). With an adjusted gross sample of n=1,970 this corresponds to a response rate of 37.9%. The proceeding steps (telephone and personal interviews) increased the response rate to 44.6%.
These additional survey modes within the mixed-mode design also had a positive effect on the sample composition. More people aged 80 years and older were included as well as more people who reported a poorer health status.
A mixed-mode design proves to be very effective in facilitating the participation of this hard-to-reach population. Especially the personal contact through home visits seems to be indispensable.

Investigating Recruitment and Response Behavior on Samples from Ageing Municipalities – Evidence from Three Population Surveys at the Community Level in Germany

Dr Robert Neumann (Technische Universität Dresden) - Presenting Author
Professor Guido Mehlkop (University of Erfurt)
Mr Oliver Brust (Technische Universität Dresden)
Mr Hagen von Hermanni (University of Leipzig)

Improving the quality of survey data usually conveys two separate research endeavors when the sampled population is ageing: (1) How to avoid systematic unit-nonresponse due to personal characteristics (age, health) or mode-specific restrictions and (2) how to avoid response errors or item non-response even when more complex survey designs are applied? To gain insights on these questions, we will first present the results of two separate large mixed-mode surveys that took place in the German federal state of Saxony in the fall of 2016 (N=8000) and spring 2018 (N=5000). We will report the results from a sequential contact experiment during which we randomly allocated a portion of the respondents to a paper-only survey, another to a web-only and the rest to a mixed-mode design with both response options, especially with regards age-specific mode preferences and mode-switching. Second, we will present the results of a separate survey of the elderly (N=5000; age 50 and older) from January 2019 at the community level where our focus will be to investigate several indicators of the quality of survey responses, especially with regards to two factorial surveys integrated in the paper-pencil-questionnaire. Such designs exhibit special cognitive loads on respondents and methodological investigations about the validity and measurement issues when applying such designs on an elderly sample population still remain quite rare.