Institute Research Team Gets Funding for Healthy Aging Reports Covering Rhode Island, Connecticut

Healthy Aging NH

UMass Boston gerontology PhD student Haowei Wang shared New Hampshire Healthy Aging data with N.H. state Rep. James MacKay at a legislative breakfast in April.

A UMass Boston research team that recently published comprehensive reports on the health of older adults living in Massachusetts and New Hampshire has received new funding to produce similar studies covering two additional New England states.

The team at the McCormack Graduate School’s Gerontology Institute received grants of $448,000 from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation to support healthy aging data reports for Rhode Island and Connecticut. Tufts had funded the earlier healthy aging state reports as well.

Research for the new reports began this month and is expected to be complete by April 2021. The team will be updating a previous Rhode Island report it published in 2016. The Connecticut research will become the basis of that state’s first healthy aging data report. Continue reading

The Aging Paradox: A Look at Later-Life Satisfaction Through the Eyes of OLLI Members

Olli members

Clockwise from top left, OLLI members Mary Doller, Al May, Jean Hunt and Steve Vorenberg.

By Caitlin Connelly

A good paradox can turn the obvious on its head.

That’s a fair way to describe the aging paradox, a concept well-known to gerontologists that challenges presumptions about the way people feel as they grow older. True, there may be many forms of loss or limitation that come with older age. But there is also empirical evidence that shows people actually experience a greater level of life satisfaction as they grow older.

In the process of living to an older age, transitions often become more than a simple shift from work to retirement and bring people to a more peaceful frame of mind, according to Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at UMass Boston.

“Older adults often arrive at this point where they feel like they’ve experienced a lot but they’ve also learned a lot from the experience,” said Boerner.

Those transitions can be driven by conventional forces of work and family. But the kind of older-life satisfaction described by the aging paradox is often rooted other kinds of experiences. “People get to that point from very different trajectories,” said Boerner.

The Gerontology Institute Blog asked members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston to describe their transition into the earlier stages of older life and how they felt about it. Their responses illustrate just how different those trajectories can be. Continue reading

Gerontology PhD Candidate Natalie Pitheckoff Examines Bonds Between Older Adults and Animals

Natalie Pitheckoff with her rabbits

Natalie Pitheckoff with her rabbits, left to right, Gizmo, Sir Ziggy and Madame Bushwick

Call it the Domino effect.

Natalie Pitheckoff, a gerontology PhD candidate at UMass Boston, has spent years observing and studying the impact of pets on older adults, particularly those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Her proposed PhD dissertation  involves analyzing the policies and practices of nursing homes when it comes to human-animal interactions.

Pitheckoff was recently awarded a dissertation grant to support her work from the UCLA Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program. The program is funded by Bob Barker, the retired television game show host and long-time animal rights supporter. Continue reading

Gerontology Institute Research Team Completes Report on Healthy Aging in New Hampshire

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 research team from the University of Massachusetts Boston has delivered a comprehensive new report on the health of older people in New Hampshire, along with detailed profiles of 244 communities in their state.

The first-ever New Hampshire Healthy Aging Data Report was prepared by researchers at the McCormack Graduate School’s Gerontology Institute, led by associate professor Beth Dugan. The report, funded by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, was released April 2 at a legislative breakfast at the New Hampshire statehouse.

“We are all aging,” said Dugan. “Identifying and understanding the gaps in healthy aging will allow communities to continue to adapt, improving quality of life for all New Hampshire residents.” Continue reading

Gerontology PhD Student Shiva Prasad Studies How to Create Ideal LGBT Online Senior Center

By Caitlin Connelly

Imagine an online LGBT senior center. What would that look like and how would it serve visitors?

These are questions on Shiva Prasad’s mind. The third-year gerontology PhD student at UMass Boston recently presented preliminary research findings on the subject at the LGBT Elders in an Ever Changing World conference in Salem, Mass.

Nearly 200 people attended the one-day conference held to discuss the needs and desires of older adults and caregivers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Organizations helping put on the event included the LGBT Aging Project, North Shore Elder Services and the Over the Rainbow LGBT Coalition, Salem State University School of Social Work, Care Dimensions, and AARP Massachusetts. Continue reading

News Flash: UMass Boston Gerontology Makes Headlines in 2018

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

UMass Boston Gerontology Grad’s Journey From MAS Student to Assisted Living Executive

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

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

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

Special Journal Edition Examines Aging Policy and Politics in the Trump Era

Edward A. Miller

Editor-in-chief Edward A. Miller

It takes more than a few words to explain what the Trump administration means to older Americans.

In fact, the Journal of Aging & Social Policy has dedicated an entire edition to address the issue. Its recently published special edition, “Aging Policy and Politics in the Trump Era,” looks at the White House and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress from eleven different perspectives on senior issues.

“The role of older Americans has been critical in both shaping and reacting to this political moment,” JASP editor-in chief and UMass Boston professor Edward A. Miller, along with four co-authors, write in the edition’s lead article (free access).

“Their political orientations and behaviors have shaped it through their electoral support for Republican candidates, but they also stand as highly invested stakeholders in the policy decisions made by the very officials they elected and as beneficiaries of the programs that Republicans have targeted,” they wrote. Continue reading