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Interviewing older people by telephone following initial contact by postal survey


Brenda Roe Institute of Human Ageing, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX.


Although the use of the telephone for interviewing has become a commonly used and largely accepted research method, the literature on this subject makes it clear that certain reservations remain. Some of these relate to problems encountered when interviewing older adults by telephone and others concern the use of the telephone in interviews where there has been no prior face-to-face contact. The conclusions of others who have studied these two sets of problems in combination are that special difficulties exist. These conclusions are examined with reference to researchers’ experiences of conducting a study on continence care, in which a postal survey (as opposed to face-to-face contact) preceded telephone interviews. Interviews were conducted with adults of all ages, including a high proportion of older people. Researchers encountered few major difficulties and were satisfied with both response rate and response quality. Research to compare the effects of a variety of initial contact modes on telephone interviews with both younger and older adults is recommended.