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Engagement promotes and supports the active participation of patients and families in health care and research to strengthen their influence on decision-making. We sought to characterize how citizens wish to be engaged in care and research in the intensive care unit (ICU).Interviewers administered questionnaires to visitors in 3 adult ICUs and 1 pediatric ICU.We surveyed 202 (adult [n = 130] and pediatric [n = 72]) visitors. Adults and pediatric visitors prioritized 3 patient care topics (family involvement in rounds, improving communication between family members and health-care providers, and information transmission between health-care practitioners during patient transfers) and 2 research topics (evaluating prevention and recovery from critical illness). Preferred engagement activities included sharing personal experiences, identifying important topics and outcomes, and finding ways to make changes that respected their needs. Both respondent groups preferred to participate by completing electronic surveys or comment cards and answering questions on a website. Few respondents (<5%) wanted to participate in committees that met regularly. Although adult and pediatric respondents identified common facilitators and barriers to participation, they ranked them differently. Although both groups perceived engagement to be highly important, adult respondents were significantly less confident that their participation would impact care (7.6 ± 2.2 vs 8.3 ± 1.8; P = .01) and research (7.3 ± 2.4 vs 8.2 ± 2.0; P = .01) and were significantly less willing to participate in care (5.6 ± 2.9 vs 6.7 ± 3.0; P = .007) and research (4.7 ± 3.0 vs ± 5.8 ± 3.0; P = .02).Adult and pediatric visitors expressed comparable engagement preferences, identified similar facilitators and barriers, and rated engagement highly. Adult visitors were significantly less confident that their participation would be impactful and were significantly less willing to engage in care and research.