Driving Thought Leadership and Innovation

Meet a compassionate team singularly focused on improving the lives of older adults

Our researchers build their work on a solid foundation of education and expertise, as well as a passion for understanding aging issues and sharing relevant research with professionals in senior living and aging services in order to support innovation.

Catherine O’Brien, PhD, MPH

Vice President and Director of Mather Institute

In addition to overseeing translational research and other initiatives within the Institute, Dr. O’Brien is responsible for developing collaborative research partnerships with universities and professionals in the field of aging. She serves as managing editor for Seniors Housing & Care Journal, a peer-reviewed publication focusing on applied research and best practices in the fields of seniors housing and long-term care.

Dr. O’Brien’s recent research topics include wellness in residents of Life Plan Communities and senior living workforce development.

Selected Publications:

O’Brien, C., Smith, J. & Beck, D. (2016). Real relationships in a virtual world: Social engagement among older adults in Second Life. Gerontechnology, 15(3):171-179.

O’Brien, C. & Nicholson, R. (2015). Senior Living Residents’ Perceptions of the Boost Your Brain & Memory Program. Seniors Housing & Care Journal, 23(1): 45-57.

King, S., O’Brien, C., Edelman, P., & Fazio, S. (2011). Evaluation of the person centered care essentials program: Importance of trainers in achieving targeted outcomes. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education. 32(4): 379-395.

Edelman P., O’Brien C., Loftus E.M., & Engel R. (2010). Whole-person wellness in senior living: perspectives of 23 pioneering communities. Seniors Housing & Care Journal, 18(1): 53-65.

O’Brien C., Selod S., & Lamb K.V. (2009). A national initiative to train long-term care staff for disaster response and recovery. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Supplement.

Jennifer L. Smith, PhD

Director of Research

Dr. Smith conducts research on ways to enhance psychological well-being and resilience among older adults. She is also responsible for overseeing the Novare Engagement and Satisfaction Surveys for residents and employees.

Dr. Smith’s recent and ongoing research projects include a pilot of a resident wellness assessment, evaluation of a resident wellness coaching program, and study of motivations for solitude among older adults.

Selected Publications:

Smith, J. L., Thomas, V., & Azmitia, M. (in press). Happy alone? Motivational profiles of solitude and well-being among senior living residents. International Journal of Aging and Human Development.

Smith, J. L., Clarke, P. B., & Fullen, M. C. (in press). Perceptions of aging and wellness engagement among life plan community residents. Educational Gerontology.

Menkin, J. A., Smith, J. L., & Bihary, J. G. (2022). Brief messages addressing aging increase physical activity motivation among older community-dwelling adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 41(2), 478-485. doi:10.1177/0733464820960925

Smith, J. L., Bihary, J. G., O’Connor, D., Basic, A., & O’Brien, C. J. (2020). Impact of savoring ability on the relationship between older adults’ activity engagement and well-being. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 39, 323-331. doi:10.1177/0733464819871876

Smith, J. L., & Bryant, F. B. (2019). Enhancing positive perceptions of aging by savoring life lessons. Aging and Mental Health, 23, 762-770doi:10.1080/13607863.2018.1450840

Smith, J. L., & Hanni, A. A. (2019). Effects of a savoring intervention on resilience and well-being of older adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 38, 137-152. doi:10.1177/0733464817693375

Smith, J. L. (2018). Influence of senior living employees’ perceptions of aging on engagement and quality of resident interactions. Senior Housing and Care Journal, 26, 50-60.

Smith, J. L., & Bryant, F. B. (2017). Savoring and well-being: Mapping the cognitive-emotional terrain of the happy mind. To appear in M. Eid & M. D. Robinson (Eds.), The Happy Mind: Cognitive Contributions to Well-Being (pp. 139-156). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Smith, J. L., & Bryant, F. B. (2016). The benefits of savoring life: Savoring as a moderator of life satisfaction in older adults. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 84, 3-23.

Smith, J. L., & Hollinger-Smith, L. (2015). Savoring, resilience, and psychological well-being in older adults. Aging and Mental Health, 19, 192-200.

Mushira Mohsin Khan, MA, PhD

Senior Research Associate

Dr. Khan is a social gerontologist who conducts research on the social aspects of aging and ways to enhance the quality of living for older adults across diverse communities, countries, and cultures. She assists Mather Institute with the Age Well Study and other surveys of older adults. Dr. Khan’s ongoing projects include the Empathy, Volunteering, and Life Satisfaction Among Older Adults Study, the Hope as a Motivator for Healthy Behaviors Survey, and the Perceptions of Aging Among South Asian Older Adults Study.

Selected Publications:

Khan, M. M, Graham, K., Washington, T., Kim, A., Shah, R. C., and Glover, C. M. (2019). The SEARCH Study: A Qualitative Inquiry into Diverse Stakeholder Perspectives on Healthy Aging Across Chicagoland. Innovation in Aging3(Supplement_1), S961-S961.

Khan, M. M., and Kobayashi, K. (2015). Optimizing health promotion among ethnocultural minority older adults (EMOA). International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, 11(4), 268-281.

Kobayashi, K. M., Cloutier, D. S., Khan, M. M., and Fitzgerald, K. (2020). Asset based community development to promote healthy aging in a rural context in Western Canada: Notes from the field. Journal of Community Practice28(1), 66-76.

Kobayashi, K. M., Funk, L., and Khan, M. M. (2017). Constructing a sense of commitment in ‘Living Apart Together’(LAT) relationships: Interpretive agency and individualization. Current Sociology65(7), 991-1009.

Kobayashi, K. M., Kampen, R., Cox, A., Cloutier, D., Cook, H., Taylor, D., Gaspard, G., and Khan, M. M. (2018). Changing Roles of Care Team Members within New Models of Care Delivery in Residential Care Facilities: Implications for the Delivery of Quality of Care. International Journal of Aging Research1(4), 17-17.

Nicole Lehpamer, PhD

Senior Research Associate

Dr. Lehpamer is a sociologist who conducts research examining the association between different characteristics of social relationships and health among older adults. She assists Mather Institute with the Age Well Study and other surveys of older adults. Her ongoing projects include the Mental Health during Covid Study and the Empathy and Life Satisfaction Study. She also contributes research summaries to InvestigAge.

Laurel Mertz, MA

Research Associate

Ms. Mertz conducts data collection and data management activities across many studies at the Institute, including the resident wellness assessment pilot as well as resident and employee engagement surveys. She is also the IRB Administrator for Mather and a contributor to InvestigAge.

Selected Publications:

Bohnert, A. M., Nicholson, L. M., Mertz, L., Bates, C. R., & Gerstein, D. E. (2021). Green schoolyard renovations in low-income urban neighborhoods: Benefits to students, schools, and the surrounding community. American Journal of Community Psychology, 1– 11. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12559

Ajla Basic, MA, PMP

Project Manager

Since joining the Institute, Ms. Basic supports the completion of multiple research projects. She is a key team member on the Age Well Study, a five-year longitudinal study of health among Life Plan Community residents. In addition, she manages the Institute’s RFP program, which solicits and identifies Collaborative Research Partners. She plays a key role in managing awards submissions for both the annual Promising Practices Awards and the Innovative Research on Aging Awards. She also contributes research summaries to InvestigAge.

Ms. Basic is pursuing a PhD in Social–Applied Psychology.

Selected Publications:

Smith, J. L., Bihary, G. Joseph., O’Connor, D., Basic, A., & O’Brien, C. (2019). Impact of Savoring Ability on the Relationship Between Older Adults’ Activity Engagement and Well-Being. Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Smith, J. L., Bihary, G. Joseph., O’Connor, D., Basic, A., & O’Brien, C. (2019). Wellness among Life Plan Community Residents: Relationships between Culture and Outcomes. Seniors Housing & Care Journal.

Basic, A. (2020). Examining Organizational Factors and Their Impact on Older Adults in Life Plan Communities.  (Master’s  thesis). Loyola University, Chicago.

    Get the Latest Research & Trends

    Join our email list to receive information about the latest research from Mather Institute.