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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Diane Kayongo-Male


This research analyzed the basic assumption that bigger, more comprehensive, more centralized senior center delivery systems produce better results - increased availability, increased accessibility, increased scope, and higher utilization rates. An open systems theory of senior center efficiency was developed. Open systems theory, as developed herein, explains senior center efficiency in terms of the environmental factors associated with inputs (resources), in terms of the structural aspects associated with the actual delivery of programs, and in terms of consequences and impacts that these structures have for target populations. Hypotheses were tested using Pearson correlation coefficient, analysis of variance, and multiple discriminant analysis. A sample of three senior center types in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota was drawn. These types are senior clubs, service centers, and multipurpose senior centers. The tests demonstrated that the delivery of senior center programs to target populations can be viewed from a systems theory. Indeed, with certain qualifications, the tests revealed that: (1) Environmental complexity of senior center catchment areas varies directly with size, structural differentiation, and technological complexity of senior centers. (2) Scope of senior centers varies by population size of the catchment area. (3) catchment areas of different sizes vary in availability of senior center programs. (4) There is a direct relationship among structural characteristics of senior centers and their impacts. (5) Senior center types differ in size, structural differentiation, technological complexity, scope, and accessibility. Moreover, measures of structural differentiation and impacts are discriminators of senior center type. One important contribution of this research is the application of systems theory to the understanding of how senior centers work, how structures are influenced by the environment, and what impact distinctive structures have on target populations. Another contribution is a more detailed specification of structural characteristics of senior citizen center types based upon analysis of variance and discriminant analysis.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Older people -- Societies and clubs
Older people -- Services for -- United States
Older people -- Social networks




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