UMass Boston Gerontology Alum Elizabeth Chen Named Senior State Public Health Official


Elizabeth Chen was a woman in a hurry when she arrived at UMass Boston’s Gerontology Department in 2012.

Chen had already lived through two highly successful but very different careers, as a biotech chief executive and the president of a college. After receiving a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health, she came directly to UMass to pursue master’s and PhD degrees in gerontology, and prepare herself for a third act.

Chen’s latest career move, this time as a public health executive, took a big step forward in September. She was recently named assistant commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, to provide senior leadership and oversee the state’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, the Bureau of Health Professions Licensure and the state’s Determination of Need program. Continue reading

Professor Jan Mutchler Testifies Before Governor’s Council to Address Aging

There is a long list of issues that concern older people living in  Massachusetts. Money no doubt deserves a place near the top.

UMass Boston Gerontology Professor Jan Mutchler has spent many years collecting and analyzing data about the economic security of seniors in Massachusetts and across the nation. She painted a detailed picture of the challenges facing the state’s elder residents in testimony before the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts.

“Across many projects, involving thousands of Massachusetts seniors, we have learned that their most common concerns about aging in place are financial,” Mutchler told the council on Sept. 7. Continue reading

Kathrin Boerner Wins NIA Grant to Study Senior Child-Parent Relationship

Increasing longevity has given rise to a new phenomenon that was once considered rare: generations of family members reaching old age together.

Senior children and very old parents are not so unusual anymore. “And virtually nothing is known about the relationships of very old adults and their ‘old’ children,” said Kathrin Boerner, associate professor of Gerontology at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.

Boerner recently received a $419,855 grant from the National Institute on Aging to study the relationships of parents older than 95 with a child older than 65. Her work will examine the relationships of 120 such parent-child pairs. Continue reading

Gerontology Institute Pilot Grants Give Researchers a Funding Boost

Professor Christian Weller

Professor Christian Weller recently received a Gerontology Institute Pilot Grant.

How do some researchers get a leg up in the hyper-competitive world of grant funding?

One important source of funds, the National Institute on Aging, only has the financial resources to support 15 percent of grant applications. And that’s an improvement from the odds of success in other recent years.

Most applications to elite agencies like NIA are of high quality, so simply presenting a good idea usually is not enough. Researchers can improve their chances of funding success by developing some preliminary evidence a project hypothesis has merit.

That’s the point behind the Gerontology Institute’s Pilot Grant program, launched in 2016. The awards support researchers in the initial stages of their work, seed funding for promising projects. Continue reading

Meet Jim Hermelbracht, New Director of OLLI at UMass Boston

Jim Hermelbracht is the new director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston. Recently, Hermelbracht talked about why he was drawn to the job and explained his initial priorities at OLLI. He also discussed his roots in the Midwest and a career in higher education. The following is an edited version of that conversation.



What attracted you to the position of director of OLLI at UMass Boston?

I’ve been in higher education for 20 years now. I like what higher education is about in terms of providing opportunities for all students to really explore their interests and gain valuable experiences in their personal and professional development. So when I looked at OLLI and found it served a different student population than what I am used to working with — ages 18 to 22 — it intrigued me. The whole concept of lifelong learning is something I think we try to instill in undergraduate students, that learning never ends. I found the opportunity to help students, in this case older students, continue that exploration to be very appealing. It’s going to be a new and different challenge. Continue reading

PAC Director Jeanne Medeiros Cautions ERISA Panel On Electronic Delivery of Pension Documents

WASHINGTON – Routine documents and notifications, once dropped in the mail by companies and other organizations, are often sent off electronically or stored on a website now. The obvious reasons: convenience, simplicity and savings.

But is that a good way to handle the important documents related to retirees and their pension benefits?

Absolutely not, said Jeanne Medeiros, director of the Pension Action Center at the Gerontology Institute, part of UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School. In testimony before the ERISA Advisory Council, she said electronic delivery of those documents would create a host of practical problems for beneficiaries. Continue reading

UMass Gerontology Alum Natalie Leland Receives $4.7M Contract for Dementia Care Research

A research team led by UMass Boston Gerontology alumna Dr. Natalie Leland has received a $4.7 million contract to compare the effectiveness of two care delivery models for nursing home residents living with dementia.

The contract from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute will fund a five-year study comparing care models at 80 nursing homes in 10 geographic regions across the United States. More than 700,000 Americans residing in nursing homes live with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Continue reading

Jim Hermelbracht Named New Director of OLLI at UMass Boston

Jim Hermelbracht, a highly regarded administrator with two decades of experience in higher education management, has been selected as the new director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston.

Hermelbracht, who most recently served as director of student activities at Stonehill College, will leave that position later this month to take over leadership of OLLI at UMass Boston, the state’s largest lifelong learning program. He was selected by a six-person search committee that included four OLLI members. Continue reading

6 Ways to Address the LTSS Workforce Crisis

By Geralyn Magan

Most providers of long-term services and supports (LTSS) struggle to address high turnover rates and growing job vacancies within their organizations. A recent article by Robyn Stone, co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @ UMass Boston, warns that those struggles are likely to escalate over the next two decades unless policy makers take six actions.

“The current direct care worker shortage … is simply a bellwether of things to come over the next 20 years as Baby Boomers age and the life expectancy of younger people with disabilities increases,” writes Stone in the Public Policy and Aging Report. Continue reading

Grad Research Assistant Wendy Wang to Present Report at China Conference

A new report prepared by UMass Boston Gerontology Institute researchers on resources for elders and those living with dementia in Massachusetts will no doubt be read far and wide.

How far? Wendy Wang, the lead graduate research assistant on the report prepared for the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, will present the findings at the Chinese Congress and Exposition on Gerontology and Health Industry in Suzhou, China, next month. Continue reading