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

In the Depths of Winter, a First-Year Gerontology PhD Student Starts Planning For Summer

This is another in an occasional series of stories about the academic experiences of a first-year UMass Boston gerontology PhD student.

By Caitlin Connelly

One semester down, many more to go. Looking ahead, I need to make an important decision about the best way to spend my summer. This is a question that students are faced with throughout their academic career.

There are many options rattling around in my mind and the choice between them feels hazy. Like most students, I have lots of interests and concerns that pull me in different directions. Do I follow my wanderlust and spend time traveling or do I help plant my roots here in Boston? I would like to gain research experience but how do I go about doing that? Should I spend time productively or give myself a little break after a strenuous academic year? How do I continue paying my bills? Are workshops and conferences worth the investment of money and time?

I reached out to some faculty and more experienced students to ask them for advice about how to determine a path I should take. Continue reading

Chae Man Lee is One of Gerontology Department’s First Two Postdoc Fellows

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 is One of First Two UMass Boston Gerontology Postdocs

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

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

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

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

Dr. Shuangshuang Wang, Gerontology Graduate, Thanks Her Village at McCormack

By Saadia Ahmad

The first time that Dr. Shuangshuang Wang learned of the gerontology field was from a professor in college who mentioned that while there are many researchers interested in child development, far fewer are focused on the development of older adults. She enrolled in a class on human aging and discovered an interest in care-giving and marital relationships in the later stages of life. From that point forward, she began thinking about how to improve life quality at the larger stage of human development and found the Gerontology PhD program at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.

That was seven years ago. Last month, Wang graduated with a doctoral degree in gerontology and with the Gerontology Book Award, presented to a graduating student who has demonstrated excellence across both coursework and dissertation work. Continue reading

Academic Life: 3 New UMass Boston Gerontology PhDs on Their Dissertation Experiences

By Meghan Hendricksen

Successfully completing the UMass Boston gerontology PhD program is like ending a journey.  A very long journey.

Just ask Ian Livingston, Jane Tavares or ShuangShuang Wang. All three recently defended their dissertations successfully. The Gerontology Institute blog talked with the newly minted UMass Boston PhDs about their experiences — from the original development of their dissertation topic to its eventual defense and how the work positions them for the future. Here’s what they had to say.

Q: Was the topic you chose for your dissertation in the area of interest you had coming into the Gerontology program?

Ian Livingston: It was not. My original interests and the topic of my dissertation were very different, but I was not surprised by that. My dissertation looks at the effects of physical therapists and occupational therapists on quality of care in nursing homes, but my original interests were linked to health behaviors and their association with different outcomes for older adults.

Coming into the program I had a sense of what I wanted to do, but that changed quickly even after just the first year. As a student, you’re exposed to so many broad aging-related topics, many of which are very interesting. My dissertation topic must have changed five or six different times before I even finished my qualifying exam. My recommendation to future students who already have dissertation ideas is to always be open to new ideas or different ways to approach a topic. You may be surprised how a topic that is completely different from your original interests may be the area you become most interested in.

Jane Taveres: Yes, my dissertation topic was closely related to a general area of interest I had coming into the Gerontology program. I have always had an interest in exploring how social relationships impact health. Much of my research has focused on this topic while I have been in our gerontology program. My faculty mentor, Jeff Burr, was also interested in this area of research and we worked together from my very first day, so I was able to really dig pretty deeply into this topic area over the course of my time in the program.

Shuangshuang Wang: Yes but more specific. When I first came into the program I was interested in broadly inter-generational relations and marital relations in later life. And when I was discussing with my dissertation chair about possible dissertation topics she suggested that maybe grandchild care and grandparents’ marital quality is a good one, which interested me as well. Continue reading