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Keywords:

  • genetics;
  • older adults;
  • consent;
  • genetic testing;
  • genetic knowledge

Purpose: To describe and compare the attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs of older adults from three ethnic groups about genetic testing and genetic research, to determine how the understanding of genetics influences informed consent, and to identify factors that are important in older adults' decisions about participation in genetic research.

Methods: Three focus groups were initially conducted with 23 African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic adults in community-based settings. Discussions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Content analysis of transcripts was performed and a second session was conducted with participants from each group to confirm the analyses.

Findings: Four common themes related to genetics and informed consent for genetic testing were identified: (a) defining genetics, (b) justifying genetic testing, (c) family involvement, and (d) dignified agreement.

Conclusions: The findings from this study indicate that although these older adults had information about genetics, the information was not always accurate. In addition, deference among this cohort to providers' opinions showed the important role of healthcare professionals in providing genetic information and obtaining consent in ways that ensure it is voluntary and informed.