Christina (Tina) Matz, PhD, MSW
Associate Professor, Boston College School of Social Work
Chair, Older Adults and Families
Co-Director, Center on Aging & Work
Christina Matz (formerly Matz-Costa) has been affiliated with the Center in different forms since 2006. Her research examines the complex pathways between health/well-being and engagement during later life, with a focus on social and productive activities (e.g., employment, volunteering, informal helping, and caregiving). Her aim is to better explicate the social determinants, outcomes, and mechanisms of different forms and patterns of engagement (behavioral engagement as well as affective-cognitive engagement) with the ultimate goal of identifying interventions that can be applied at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels that reduce the burden of disease and disability on families, communities, and society, and improve the overall quality of life of older adults.
In one stream of Dr. Matz’s work, she and her colleagues expanded the conceptual space of continued “engagement” in later life as a pathway to successful aging through an initiative of the Center on Aging & Work, “Engaged as We Age”. Often times continued engagement refers to involvement in social and productive activities (i.e., paid work, volunteerism, caregiving, and informal helping) and focuses little on older adults’ assessment of the subjective quality of their role experiences. Findings from this initiative demonstrate that just staying involved in productive activities in and of itself is not sufficient to support health and wellbeing in later life. Workers, volunteers, and caregivers reported higher psychological well-being than non-workers, non-volunteers, and non-caregivers, respectively, when they felt highly engaged—a construct that refers to the experience of connecting on a deep and meaningful level with a role—but reported lower psychological well-being than their counterparts when they felt low in engagement. The team developed an innovative new measure of engagement in later life using Rasch measurement principles that can be used across multiple productive activities, known as the Productive Engagement Portfolio (PEP). This approach has been recognized as both conceptually and methodologically innovative, winning the AARC/MECD Patricia B. Elmore Award for Outstanding Research in Measurement and Evaluation in 2014.
Dr. Matz also recently developed and tested a health promotion program for older community-dwelling adults called Engaged4Life (funded National Institute on Aging’s Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions (P30AG048785). Based in the Social Model of Health Promotion (Fried et al., 2014), Engaged4Life is a novel program to encourage inactive community-dwelling older adults to embed physical activity, cognitive activity, and social interaction into their everyday lives in contexts that are personally meaningful and natural for them. Fifteen participants were randomized to the intervention group (technology-assisted self-monitoring of daily activity via pedometers and daily tablet-based surveys; psychoeducation + goal-setting via a 3-hour workshop; and peer mentoring via phone 2×/week for 2.5 weeks) and 15 to the control (technology-assisted self-monitoring only). Recruitment was shown to be feasible and efficient, but not able to reach the target for men. Retention rate was 83% and participants manifested high adherence and engagement with the intervention. Though this pilot trial was not powered to demonstrate significant differences between groups, daily steps increased by 431 (11% increase) from baseline to Week 4 for the intervention (p < .05), but decreased by 458 for the control, for a net difference of 889 steps (p < .05). Findings were sustained at Week 8 (p < .01). She is currently working to adapt this intervention for Alzheimer’s caregivers and to racial and ethnic minority older adult populations as well as to test the original program on a larger scale in the community.
Dr. Matz is a co-lead on the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s Grand Challenge on Advancing Long and Productive Lives which has been identified as one of 12 grand challenges for the social work profession for the next decade. Productive aging is a paradigm that represents a social development response to population aging that seeks to shape social policies and programs to optimally engage the growing human capital of the aging population; to facilitate paid and unpaid work longer into the life course to offset the demands of population aging; and to ensure the inclusion of all segments of the older adult population, especially among those who are more likely to be excluded (e.g., by race, ethnicity, disability).
Matz-Costa, C., Berzin, S., Pitt-Catsouphes, M., & Halvorsen, C. (2019). Perceptions of the meaningfulness of work among older social purpose workers: An Ecological Momentary Assessment study. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 38(8), 1121–1146. DOI: 10.1177/0733464817727109
Ludlow, L., Matz-Costa, C., & Klein, K. (2019). Enhancement and validation of the Productive Engagement Portfolio-Scenario (PEP-S8) Scales. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 52(1), 15-37.
Wang, Y., & Matz-Costa, C. (2019). Gender differences in the effect of social resources and subjective social status on the retirement satisfaction and health of retirees. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 62(1), 86-107. DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2018.1474156
Matz-Costa, C., Lubben, J. E., Lachman, M., Lee, H. N., & Choi, Y. J. (2018). A pilot randomized trial of an intervention to enhance the health-promoting effects of older adults' activity portfolios: The Engaged4Life Program. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 61(8), 792-816.
Carr, D., Kail, B.K., Matz-Costa, C., & Shavit, Y. (2018). Does becoming a volunteer attenuate loneliness among recently widowed older adults? The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 73(3), 501-510. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbx092
Yang, J. & Matz-Costa, C. (2017). Age diversity in the workplace: The effect of relational age within supervisor-employee dyads on employees’ work engagement. International Journal of Aging & Human Development. [Advance Online Publication.]
Matz-Costa, C. (2016). Productive aging in the workplace: Understanding factors that promote or impede subjective well-being at work. Best Practices in Mental Health, 12(2), 43-62.
James, J., Matz-Costa, C., & Smyer, M. (2016). Retirement security: It’s not just about the money. American Psychologist, 71(4), 334–344. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0040220
Sabbath, E.L., Matz-Costa, C., Rowe, J.W., Leclerc, A., Goldberg, M. & Berkman, L.F. (2016). Social predictors of active life engagement: A time-use study of young-old French adults. Research on Aging, 38(8), 864-893. PMID: 26449627 DOI: 10.1177/0164027515609408
Matz-Costa, C., Carr, D., McNamara, T., & James, J. (2016). Physical, cognitive, social, and emotional mediators of activity involvement and health in later life. Research on Aging, 28(7), 791-815. PMID: 26429863 DOI: 10.1177/0164027515606182
Carr, D., King, K., & Matz-Costa, C. (2015). Parent-Teacher Association, soup kitchen, church, or the local civic club? Life stage indicators of volunteer domain. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 80(4), 293-315. PMID: 26342022 DOI: 10.1177/0091415015603608
Gonzales, E., Matz-Costa, C., & Morrow-Howell, N. (2015). Increasing opportunities for the productive engagement of older adults: A response to population aging. The Gerontologist, 55(2), 252-261. PMID: 26035601 DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnu176
Pitt-Catsouphes, M., James, J., & Matz-Costa, C. (2015). Workplace-based health and wellness programs: The intersection of aging, work, and health. The Gerontologist, 55(2), 262-270. PMID: 26035602 DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnu114
Complete List of Published Work in MyBibliography.