Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Gatekeeper, Older Adults, Theory of Planned Behavior, Referral, Bystander Effect, Social Service Agency Referral Scale

Major Advisor

Prof. Brenda Kurz

Associate Advisor

Prof. Waldo Klein

Associate Advisor

Dr. Gerard J. Kerins

Field of Study

Social Work


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The public is often encouraged to engage in socially responsible behaviors for the good of society, sometimes on behalf of those most vulnerable; older adults are one such rapidly growing vulnerable population. Nationally policies trend toward helping older adults remain at home rather than entering skilled nursing facilities when they encounter difficulty looking after themselves due to failing health. Although community supports are available, many are unlikely to access them, due to the very nature of their problems, such as depression and dementia. Across the U.S., gatekeeper programs encourage community members to make referrals to social service agencies which can help older adults remain safely at home. This research, informed by the Theory of Planned Behavior and the Bystander Effect, was undertaken to better understand social responsibility, specifically factors which promote or inhibit willingness to refer older adults to social service agencies, as reflected by intention to make such a referral. In order to undertake this research, it was necessary to develop a scale to measure specifically intention to refer older adults to a social service agency, the Social Service Agency Referral Scale. Three groups were studied: senior center attendees, seniors who received Gatekeeper Program training, and people who had made referrals to the Connecticut Gatekeeper Program. Demographic factors were not found to be related to the intention to refer, as measured by the Social Service Agency Referral Scale, nor was membership in any of the three study groups. Gatekeeper Program training increased intention to refer significantly. The level of perceived emergency and the intention to refer did not interact significantly. The intention to refer (as measured by the Social Service Agency Referral Scale) and the Abbreviated Social Responsibility Scale were significantly positively correlated. The research extends use of the Theory of Planned Behavior further into social work. This research also extends the body of scholarly knowledge regarding socially responsible referral behaviors in general, and the action of referring older adults to social service programs in particular. The research provides valuable information for programs which seek public participation in socially responsible behaviors.