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

Research to Examine Impact of Aging Populations on Local Finances, Services

This post originally appeared in the Collins Report.

Municipalities face a changing demographic profile in the coming years and decades. By 2030, 28 percent of the Massachusetts population will be age 60 or older, and seniors will constitute at least 30 percent of the population in two of every three municipalities in the Commonwealth.

One of the municipal functions most heavily impacted by the aging population is emergency services. Based on preliminary research, the share of EMS responses for residents aged 65+ (47 percent) is three times the share of the population currently aged 65+ (16 percent) statewide. If these patterns of response and transport persist, demand for EMS services will grow dramatically in coming decades, with a more than 35 percent increase in demand for EMS expected by 2035, just for the population aged 65 and over.

Given the need to understand how aging populations will affect the finances of municipalities, the Gerontology Institute and the Collins Center for Public Management have partnered with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to study this topic. The research will attempt to address questions such as: How do aging populations impact municipal costs, particularly related to EMS? How do aging populations impact revenues, particularly related to EMS? How do changes in the size of the senior population correlate with changes in EMS calls? And what models have emerged to manage the impact of aging populations on costs?

The results of this research will help municipalities understand the financial impact of their own aging populations and begin to consider how they provide EMS and related services to their residents so that they can devise new strategies to meet the needs of an older population.

If you are interested in learning more about or contributing to this research, please contact Michael Ward at michael.ward@umb.edu.

 

How Consumer Perspective Helped Direct a New Health Care Program

Erin McGaffigan

Erin McGaffigan

The One Care Implementation Council was established in Massachusetts five years ago to engage consumers and their advocates in the design and oversight of a new health care program serving people with disabilities who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

So how did that work out?

The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston, with the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, recently released a new case study that examines the creation and development of the council in detail. Continue reading

Choosing a Nursing Home: Can Yelp Help?

By Pamela Nadash, Edward A. Miller, and Jennifer Gaudet Hefele

Leaving loved ones in the care of a nursing home raises a host of fears: that they might suffer abuse at the hands of uncaring staff; that they might be medicated into a stupor; that they will be ignored and neglected. The specter of being trapped in a bad nursing home haunts us all. To avoid bad nursing homes, we need information that enables us to make good choices.

Pamela Nadash

Recently, The Boston Globe revealed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had not released data it had tracked over several years on the quality of the 133 nursing homes run by the VA. (Vets also have access to roughly 2,500 community nursing homes that the VA contracts with and about 160 State Veterans Homes.) Information obtained by the Globe indicated nearly half of VA-run nursing homes received the lowest possible score for quality (although scores on overall quality, which includes other dimensions, match national figures). Clearly, this is a story about the quality of nursing homes. But it is really a story about the need for access to good information — presented in ways the average person can understand — about nursing homes more generally. Continue reading

UMass Gerontology Students Selected as Capstone Award Winners

By Taryn Hojlo

Two gerontology students researching a multi-generational approach to community senior centers and property tax relief programs for older homeowners have been selected for the 2018 Capstone awards.

Students Beth Duggan Rouleau and Norma Strack were selected by a committee from the Management of Aging Services Program at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School. Each year, two Capstone papers are selected based on their demonstration of outstanding research in various topics concerning elder care, including policy development and program management. Continue reading

Study Investigates the Challenge of Documenting End-of-Life Preferences

Detailed instructions reflecting the wishes of people facing serious advancing illness offer family and health care providers valuable guidance for end-of-life care.

But the basic process of collecting that information—from the design of standardized forms to procedures used to complete them—varies greatly from state to state and at individual health care settings. Those operational details can have a dramatic impact on the quality of information collected and the usefulness of the instructions themselves.

Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School, used detailed interviews with team members at 2 Massachusetts nursing homes to study policy and practice associated with gathering information about end-of-life care wishes. Boerner, along with UMass Boston assistant sociology professor Jason Rodriquez and 2 other co-authors, recently published their findings in the journal Geriatric Nursing. Continue reading