More than 12,000 Medicare recipients will receive -- or may have already received -- an invitation to participate in a landmark study of aging known as the National Health and Aging Trends Study, or NHATS.
NHATS is a joint effort between Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the National Institute on Aging. Its goal is to help researchers, and ultimately the government, understand the impact of change over the last few decades on how older people live, including the economic consequences of health and retirement on individuals and families.
Judith Kasper, professor in Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Health Policy and Management, is principal investigator of the study. She says she's not quite Medicare age herself, but her husband is getting close, and she has studied the program for more than 22 years.
Personal finances and retirement planning, Kasper says, will be a major focus of the study "because it is important for us to understand how finances relate to people's ability to live the lives they want as well as how they deal with change."
Participants also will be asked questions about their health, ability to accomplish tasks and ability to get around their home and community.
If you receive an invitation to participate, consider accepting it. This is an opportunity to have a personal impact on government policy not only on Medicare, but also Medicaid and Social Security.
Kasper explains that potential participants were chosen scientifically to ensure a representative sampling of the more than 38,000 Medicare recipients. Invitations were mailed out earlier this week, and tomorrow a second mailing will go out -- a personal letter from Kasper urging those selected to sign up. Kasper says they hope to attract at least 9,000 participants, but there is room for all 12,000 people who were invited if they all agreed.
"Participation is very important for the success of this study and each person invited to be in the study represents thousands of others and cannot be replaced. We hope that the people we ask to participate will be able to join and contribute to this important study," she says.
If you sign up to be part of the study, a researcher from a company called Westat will come to your home. Westat is one of the largest and most highly regarded firms doing these kinds of in-depth research interviews, according to Kasper. The interview will take two hours and each participant will receive $40 for his or her time.
That's enough to reward yourself -- dinner out, maybe -- for doing something good.