Gerontology Institute Team Delivers Comprehensive Report on Healthy Aging in Massachusetts

Mass. Heatlhy Aging Team

The Healthy Aging team, left to right: Wendy Wang PhD, Bon Kim, Nina Silverstein PhD, Jay Lee PhD, Sae Hwang Han, Shiva Prisad, Frank Porell PhD, Haowei Wang, Beth Dugan PhD. Team members not in photo: Natalie Pitheckoff and Evan Chunga.

A new report authored by a research team from the University of Massachusetts Boston provides a comprehensive examination of the health of a million older people living in the Commonwealth, including detailed profiles of every city and town.

The 2018 Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report, prepared by the team from the McCormack Graduate School’s Gerontology Institute, became available online Monday at HealthyAgingDataReports.org. The report, made possible with the support of the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, follows statewide research conducted by the same team in 2015 and 2014. The new research looked at health trends among residents over age 65 who make up about 15 percent of the state’s population.

“Since our last report, Massachusetts gained approximately 125,000 more people age 65 and older,” said associate professor Elizabeth Dugan, who leads the UMass Boston team. “The aging population in Massachusetts is growing more racially and ethnically diverse, too. But what was most striking to me is how the experience of aging could vary so profoundly based on where you live. Continue reading

How Gerontology Grad Used MAS Capstone Project to Help Launch New Service Organization

By Taryn Hojlo

Erin Kopecki didn’t consider much beyond the grading rubric when she drafted a business plan for her gerontology capstone project at UMass Boston. Her professor told students they could satisfy the project’s requirements with either a research paper or a business plan. As someone with an interest in management, Kopecki was quick to declare her choice.

Like most of her Management of Aging Services assignments, she had written the capstone in piecemeal during lunch breaks and the rare bits of downtime that her full-time job as a home care scheduling coordinator allowed. But that project would later become the plan to launch TUCKed-In Eldercare, a geriatric management organization she co-founded on Nantucket. Continue reading

Institute Talk: A Conversation With Iora Health CEO Rushika Fernandopulle

Iora Health Chief Executive Rushika Fernandopulle, left, and Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman

Rushika Fernandopulle came to the United States from Sri Lanka as a young boy and later became a doctor after graduating from Harvard Medical School. He grew dissatisfied with standard systems of care, convinced alternatives that focused on primary care could work better. Fernandopulle eventually became the co-founder and chief executive of Iora Health, a Boston company building a national medical practice to do just that.

Today, Iora cares for nearly 30,000 patients at 35 practices, about 70 percent of whom are covered by Medicare. For many of its patients, IORA employs a “risk-based care” concept, accepting fixed annual payments to care for patients rather than billing for individual services. Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman spoke with Fernandopulle recently about his ideas on improving medical care. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

Len Fishman: How did you initially become interested in pursuing a different approach to care?

Rushika Fernandopulle: I’m a primary care doctor who trained at Mass. General. I realized that the model we had for primary care was not optimal. It was fragmented and reactive. Patients weren’t getting better and they were unsatisfied with their doctors. I realized that the core of what we were doing was turning health care into a series of transactions. Document, code, bill. All the things we were trying to do to fix health care were just making the problem worse. The simple insight I had was that maybe what we need to do is start from scratch and rebuild the system from the ground up, starting with relationships and not transactions. And that required changing everything — the payment model, the process, the technology, the space. Continue reading

Gerontology PhD Students Show Off Their Research at GSA Scientific Meeting

Celeste Beaulieu, a second-year PhD student, presenting her poster.

By Caitlin Connelly

That’s a lot of research.

UMass Boston’s gerontology faculty and students made 50 paper and poster presentations at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) held recently in Boston. The Gerontology Institute Blog asked students about their experiences as presenters at the important national conference.

Advice from PhD candidate Sae Hwang Han: Do the best science you can.

Sae Hwang Han, a PhD candidate at UMass Boston, already had a handful of presentations under his belt. This year, he presented at the poster sessions and also gave a talk at a symposium.

He found there were advantages to both poster and paper presentations. With the poster, he found, “you actually get to talk to people a lot, they ask good questions and you learn from the interactions.” Continue reading

UMass Boston Shows Progress in Audit of Age-Friendly University Initiative

By Taryn Hojlo

The first audit of the UMass Boston age-friendly university initiative shows the campus is making progress embracing its pledge to become more inviting to older students, staff, faculty and other members of the community. The audit, led by gerontology professor Nina Silverstein, reviewed the university’s age-friendly strengths as well as areas in need of additional attention. The volunteer research team included representatives from across campus departments and constituencies.

“Beyond simply endorsing principles, we needed to understand what age-friendliness means for our campus and what steps need to be taken to achieve it,” said Silverstein. “The audit is a step in the right direction.” Continue reading

Gerontology PhD Students Switch Roles as OLLI Scholars Leading Classes

OLLI Scholar Cindy Bui with student Rhonda Holyoke.

OLLI Scholar Cindy Bui with student Rhonda Holyoke.

By Caitlin Connelly

Think of it as academic role reversal.

In these classes, students become the teachers. The classes are offered by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston, the state’s largest lifelong learning program for older adults. The instructors are PhD students studying gerontology at UMass Boston, known in these particular classrooms as OLLI Scholars.

Grad students have served as OLLI teachers for more than five years. This semester, UMass Boston Gerontology PhD students Emily Lim and Cindy Bui are the instructors of Popular Media, Apps and Communication, a course providing hands-on, interactive instruction on everything from hashtags to key phrases. Continue reading

UMass Boston’s Lillian Glickman Honored with MCOA Lifetime Achievement Award

Lillian GlickmanLillian Glickman has been honored by the Massachusetts Councils on Aging with its Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 50 years of experience in gerontology and work with the Massachusetts aging network.

Glickman, co-director of the Management of Aging Services Masters and Certificate Programs at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School, received the award at the MCOA’s annual meeting.

MCOA Executive Director David Stevens warmly recalled working in close partnership with Ms. Glickman for several years. “I consider Lillian my mentor, a tireless advocate who, for all of her accomplishments, deserves the same respect, admiration, and recognition as legendary elder advocates Frank Manning and Elsie Frank,” he said. Continue reading

Assistant Professor Jeffrey Stokes Joins UMass Boston Gerontology Faculty

By Martin Hansen-Verma

Jeffrey Stokes, a quantitative sociologist who specializes in aging, families and health, has joined the UMass Boston Gerontology faculty as an assistant professor.

Stokes, who earned his PhD in sociology from Boston College, most recently served as an assistant professor of sociology at Illinois State University.

Stokes’s research program focuses on the ramifications of intergenerational, marital and social relationships for adults’ well-being in mid- and later-life. His work has been published in journals such as The Gerontologist, Social Psychology Quarterly, Aging & Mental Health, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Research on Aging, and Journal of Applied Gerontology.

When talking about the fundamental interests and principles that animate his work, Stokes refers to his favorite book, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

“It gets to the core of much of what my research is about, examining the impacts of social ties and loneliness in a crowd,” he says. “Loneliness and isolation are different things. Especially in a technology-driven world, loneliness can be pervasive, even in a group. It’s one of the best examples of literature serving the function of social science. Continue reading

Academic Life: Day 1 on the Long Journey of a Gerontology PhD Student

By Caitlin Connelly

I walked into the Gerontology Department for the first time as a new PhD student on Sept. 4. I don’t remember feeling any one thing at that moment. It was more like a combination of emotions: nerves, excitement and anticipation. I had often thought about how that first day might go and what my classes would be like. Those ideas were finally about to merge with reality.

I may be a brand new PhD student but my interest in gerontology goes back a decade. It was first sparked in high school, when I volunteered in a memory care unit over the summer and I found that I really enjoyed having the opportunity to engage with older adults. My passion for the field had followed me through my undergraduate degree in Public Health and into my applied work in Asheville, N.C., as an activities director in an assisted living facility in memory care. It led me to the decision to go back to school and eventually brought me to Boston. Continue reading

PAC Case Study: Timing of Pension Claim Helps Former Wife Collect Survivor Benefit

The Gerontology Institute’s Pension Action Center is part of the McCormack Graduate School at UMass Boston. It provides free legal assistance to low- and moderate-income workers, retirees and their survivors in the six New England states and Illinois whose pension benefits have been wrongfully denied. This is one in an occasional series of posts about cases the center pursues on behalf of its clients.

Timing can be everything.

The Pension Action Center has represented clients in many disputes involving divorce and the right to benefits. Often these cases hinge on whether couples reached an agreement and signed documents about the disposition of retirement benefits as part of their divorce settlement. Continue reading