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The Rochester Roybal Center for Social Ties & Aging Research

The Roc STAR Center

Kathi L. Heffner, PhD and Kimberly Van Orden, PhD, co-Directors


Our mission is to advance research that enriches the social well-being and health of those caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ADRD).


Family caregivers can become socially disconnected in various ways due to the demands of caregiving -- they may become isolated and lonely. Caregivers may also have less satisfying social relationships with their friends and other family members, or with their loved one with dementia.

We know from decades of research that being socially disconnected in these ways increases risk for poor physical and mental health. We also know that the stress of caregiving itself can take a toll on family caregivers’ physical and mental health, particularly in older caregivers -- however, caregivers who are more socially connected tend to have better mental and physical health, and healthier aging, compared to those caregivers who are less socially connected. More research is needed to figure out how to help socially disconnected older adults, including older family caregivers, be better socially connected.


To achieve our mission, The STAR Center aims to discover highly effective ways to promote social connections and healthy aging for those caregiving for a family member with dementia. We will fund pilot research projects each year that contribute to our understanding of how best to help caregivers improve and maintain strong social connections.

Why Rochester?

Strong collaborative relationships exist between the University of Rochester and outstanding local and regional community agencies who provide support services to individuals and families caring for a family member with dementia.

The STAR Center aims to continue to foster the strong collaborations between UR researchers and community agencies. Doing so serves our ultimate goal to develop highly effective programs and interventions that improve caregivers’ social connections -- and ones that can be readily delivered by those who provide support and services for family caregivers.

For Family Caregivers interested in learning more:

If you are 50 years of age or older and currently caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementia (for example, vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia), and would like to learn more about opportunities to participate in research, please call us at:
585-276-6204 or email .

Information about active studies currently enrolling participants