By Taryn Hojlo
Where can I get help?
Older adults and caretakers sometimes struggle with that question, unsure how to find aging services and other kinds of assistance they need. Deborah Burton realized there was a thriving demand for those services but information about them in her home state of Rhode Island did not exist in any centralized resource that was easy to find and use.
Burton, a 2013 graduate of UMass Boston Gerontology’s Management of Aging Services program, was a long-term care ombudsman and founder of Senior Choice Consulting. In her professional roles, she developed extensive knowledge of the resources available to her state’s senior community. Burton often met with clients who no longer lived in their homes but could have remained there if they had been connected with the appropriate services. “That really weighed on my heart,” she said.
“I was hearing over and over again that the state needed a comprehensive website to get this information out there. I had all this information, and in good conscience I couldn’t sit on it and let people suffer,” said Burton.
So Burton developed her own website, a place to publicize every statewide and national resource that she knew about online. Together with Englund Studios, Deborah designed a site that offered straightforward guidance on an easy-to-use, open access platform. By October 2016, RIElderInfo.com went live and has been gaining popularity among both the public and professionals in the field. Continue reading
Bernice Benson spent 37 years working in the business office at St. Clare’s Hospital in upstate New York before retiring in 2008. The exit interview didn’t go well.
Benson learned her defined benefit pension would not be “what she had expected.” She took the hospital up on an offer to work one day a week in retirement to supplement pension payments that fell short by $200 a month. Eight years later, participants learned the St. Clare’s pension plan had been woefully underfunded. Benson, now 75 and still working one day per week, expects her pension payments to stop entirely around the time she reaches age 80.
Many workers and retirees like Benson are not covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the 1974 law commonly known as ERISA, which protects the rights of defined benefit pension beneficiaries. The law always exempted plans offered by churches and, years later, an amendment extended that exemption to include related employers such as hospitals affiliated with qualifying religious organizations.
Those extended exemptions were challenged in court more recently. But a unanimous 2017 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings and affirmed that religiously affiliated hospitals qualify for the ERISA exemption. Although Supreme Court left open the possibility of subsequent lawsuits, by not addressing the question of whether a hospital’s internal benefits committee is a “principal purpose organization,” the ERISA exemption is still permitted.
Sophie Esquier, staff attorney at the Gerontology Institute’s Pension Action Center, and Boston University law professor Maria O’Brien Hylton looked into the remaining legal options available to retirees affected by the decision. Writing in the New York University Review of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, they outline several ways employees and retirees affected by the exemption might use state laws to fight for their benefits when necessary. Continue reading
Chae Man Lee, a 2017 graduate of the UMass Boston Gerontology PhD program, is one of the department’s first two postdoctoral fellows. He recently talked with Saadia Ahmad of the McCormack Graduate School about his experience. This article first appeared on the McCormack Speaks blog.
SA: What was your research focus as a student?
CML: My research was focused on senior transportation, older driver safety, and healthy aging data reporting for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. My doctoral dissertation entitled, “Understanding the role of driver, vehicle, environment, and policy factors in crash injury severity among older adults in the United States” investigated how individual characteristics, vehicle elements, environmental elements, and driving licensing policy were associated with level of injury severity, from no injury to fatal injury resulting from car crashes. Continue reading
Wendy Wang, a recent graduate of the UMass Boston Gerontology PhD program, is one of the department’s first two postdoctoral fellows. She recently talked with Saadia Ahmad of the McCormack Graduate School about her experience. This article first appeared on the McCormack Speaks blog.
SA: What year and program did you graduate from? What was your research focus as a student?
WW: I graduated in May 2018 from the Gerontology PhD program. My research focused on marital relations, intergenerational relations, and health in later life. For my dissertation, I examined how providing grandchild care affect grandparents’ marital quality.
SA: What is the main focus of your postdoc fellowship?
WW: I focus on two main areas. The first area is healthy aging and senior transportation. I work with Dr. Elizabeth Dugan and her research team. Our team creates Healthy Aging Data Reports that report indicators of healthy aging for every community in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. We also do research on transportation options available for older people in Massachusetts, safety of older pedestrians for MassDOT, and the Governor’s Council to Address Aging Issues in Massachusetts to improve transportation safety. Continue reading
By Taryn Hojlo
UMass Boston’s gerontology faculty and students produced exciting new research findings and achieved remarkable public service achievements in 2018. The news media took notice.
Associate professor Beth Dugan and her Gerontology Institute colleagues published the 2018 edition of the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report in December.The comprehensive report examined a vast array of health indicators on a community-by-community basis, creating an essential resource for policymakers and local leaders to better serve Massachusetts seniors. News coverage by WBUR in Boston looked at seven key takeaways from the report. The Boston Globe dove into the healthy aging data and produced a front-page story examining the impact of depression among elders. Dugan and her team ended the year at work on a similar report profiling the health status of seniors in New Hampshire. Continue reading
By Taryn Hojlo
After years working in management and hospitality, Catherine Williamson was confident she knew how to serve people. For a decade, she had overseen the care of hotel patrons and spa-goers at The Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. She had also held positions in financial and property management.
Williamson thought she had experienced every managerial role the field had to offer. But when she took an assistant executive director position at Emeritus in 2013, a senior living facility in South Windsor, Conn., Williamson realized her career was only beginning.
“I loved the feeling I got from comforting families throughout the process of this challenging journey,” she said. “But I realized I needed more competency in the field.”
That discovery led Williamson to enroll in a Management of Aging Services course at UMass Boston to get a better idea of what the program had to offer before she matriculated. Once the course had ended, she made the decision to enroll as a full-time student. Thanks to her professional experience and education, Williamson was recently named the new executive director of Orchard Valley, a Benchmark Senior Living assisted living and memory care community in Wilbraham. Continue reading
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
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
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
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