William E. Reichman is a physician and chief executive of Baycrest, a leading non-profit elder care organization comprising health care and housing facilities, outpatient services and a research center on one campus in Toronto. His organization operates a 300-bed rehab hospital, a 472-bed skilled nursing facility, 200 assisted living units and 125 independent-living apartments. (Note: In characterizing the facilities, we have used terminology familiar to U.S. readers.)
Baycrest, affiliated with the University of Toronto, is also home to one of the world’s largest research institutes focused on brain aging and an innovation accelerator focused on elder well-being. Its tele-education program delivers education content and training to 42 countries around the world.
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman recently spoke with Reichman about ways Baycrest has deployed technology to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how those innovations can permanently influence elder care practice. Fishman is also a board director at Baycrest. The follow transcript has been edited for length.
Len Fishman: A recent Washington Post article reported that 81 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Canada are nursing home residents. How has Baycrest been affected?
William Reichman: Baycrest has had some sporadic cases of COVID-19, both in residents and patients, as well as staff members who likely brought the virus to the campus inadvertently. I think all told, we’ve had six cases among our 1,100 beds. There have been other senior care organizations in Canada which tragically have had 40 percent or more of their residents test positive for the virus and 25 percent or more actually die from infection. So it’s been catastrophic in Canada. Continue reading →
Left to right, Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman, associate professor Elizabeth Dugan and professor Jan Mutchler. Fishman, Dugan and Mutchler appear in photos below.
UMass Boston gerontologists offered legislators two suggestions for state government in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic: Help researchers better understand what has happened to older adults and get elder Massachusetts residents prepared for a more challenging future.
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman, associate professor Elizabeth Dugan and professor Jan Mutchler all appeared individually at a May 15 virtual listening session hosted by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs. They joined a wide range of advocates, policymakers and other members of the public to describe the impact the pandemic has had on older adults and what state government should do to help. Continue reading →
Joanne Lynn is a nationally recognized expert on issues related to palliative and end-of-life care. A geriatrician and hospice physician, she is the author of hundreds of journal articles and many books on issues concerning long-term services and supports. Very recently, she has written articles offering detailed advice for nursing homes dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and an overview of policy priorities for upcoming COVID-19 related deaths out of hospitals.
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman spoke with Lynn on April 3 about the daunting health challenges facing nursing homes and the best ways facilities can respond to them. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Len Fishman: Let’s start by explaining the particular risk COVID-19 poses to residents of nursing homes and other facilities like assisted living?
Joanne Lynn: The people who live in nursing homes and other residential facilities tend to be not only in the age group that has high risk but also to have multiple complicating conditions that make it very difficult to survive a serious bout of COVID-19. Still, many people get a mild case and sail through or have very mild flu symptoms and feel sick for a few days but do okay. But a substantial proportion will have a serious illness. And it looks like something on the order of around 20 percent will die from COVID-19 in these conditions. Continue reading →
Home care agencies and their employees are performing critical services that help clients continue to live independently, work that has become even more challenging and dangerous in the coronavirus pandemic.
Kevin Smith is the chief executive of Best of Care, an agency headquartered in Quincy, Mass., that serves clients in greater Boston and many other areas of Massachusetts. Smith is also president of the Home Care Aide Council, Inc., a trade association of 70 agencies providing home care services in Massachusetts.
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman spoke with Smith on March 23 about home health agencies and their workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The following transcript was edited for length and clarity.
Len Fishman: Tell us briefly who your agency serves.
Kevin Smith: We are serving about 1,500 people. They are typically over age 60 and actually skew toward their 80s. It’s fair to say many depend on the care of our aides to remain independent and out of facility-based care. Continue reading →
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman testifies Feb. 5 before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman offered a simple suggestion to state legislators wrestling with the critical shortage of low-paid direct-care health workers: Make the jobs more attractive.
Fishman told the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Services that two things – more money and a legitimate career path to better jobs – were overwhelmingly the most important factors that would attract more workers to the field.
“How can we convince more people to accept and remain in jobs that are physically and emotionally demanding, provide poor benefits, low wages and offer virtually no opportunity for career advancement? When you ask the question honestly, it answers itself,” he told the legislators at a Feb. 5 hearing. Continue reading →
Vincent Mor is a leading academic expert on eldercare issues and a national authority on research related to nursing homes. The Brown University professor has been principal investigator in more than 40 grants funded by the National Institutes of Health that focus on the use of health services and the outcomes experienced by frail and chronically ill persons.
Mor and Susan Mitchell of Hebrew SeniorLife are leading an ambitious new collaborative research incubator for “pragmatic clinical trials” that test and evaluate interventions for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Last month, they received a grant from the National Institute on Aging expected to total $53.4 million to fund that work over the next five years. It was one of the largest federal grants ever awarded for Alzheimer’s care.
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman recently spoke with Mor to talk about his new project and discuss the state of the struggling nursing home industry. The following is an edited version of their conversation. Continue reading →
Speakers Kathryn Hyer, left, and Pamela Herd, right, who were introduced by Professor Edward Miller, center.
Any celebration of an important anniversary should honor the past and also look to the future. So it was at the Gerontology Institute’s 35th anniversary symposium held on campus last week.
A panel of founders and other past leaders of the gerontology program at UMass Boston described the formative years of the institute and the gerontology academic department. They were joined on the Snowden Auditorium stage by the current directors of four Institute centers, as well as two academic program leaders, who discussed their more recent achievements and current priorities.
Later in the symposium, two other speakers turned to the future of gerontology. University of South Florida professor Kathryn Hyer, the incoming president of the Gerontological Society of America, and Georgetown University professor Pamela Herd focused on issues they believed would be priorities for gerontologists in the years ahead.
As the population ages in the United States and around the world, technology will surely play a role assisting in the care of millions of older adults and help them lead productive lives. But how will that actually work?
Fishman noted that people currently in their 60s are among the first in history to reach that age with an expectation of living into their 80s or well beyond, and they are planning accordingly. As a result, he said, “there’s an opportunity to have a conversation with people about how technology can help. The technology – some of it is disease-specific, some of it is more to help people stay well. You’re talking about almost 50 million people, that’s a huge market.”
The Harvard Catalyst event was held in June at the Countway Library of Medicine in Boston.
Carl V. Hill is director of the Office of Special Populations at the National Institute on Aging, which leads the federal government in conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. Hill recently visited the UMass Boston campus, where he was the featured speaker at the first annual Gerontology Institute Fellows Dinner. Earlier that day, Hill talked with Institute Director Len Fishman about his career, how he promotes funding for health disparity research and current priorities for the institute’s $3.1 billion research budget. The following is an edited version of their conversation.
Len Fishman: How did you first become interested in a career in public health and health disparity research in particular?
Carl V. Hill: I was in the first class of the Masters of Public Health program at the Morehouse School of Medicine. The founder of that program was Dr. Bill Jenkins, who passed away this year. He was one of the first whistle-blowers on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. He was also a mentor to many African-Americans in public health and he started this program that allowed many of us to have a start. Later, I had a chance to study for my PhD at the University of Michigan. I worked with people like Woody Neighbors and James S. Jackson, who both worked on the Survey of American Life. They also worked on the Survey on Black Americans, the first data collection on the lives and health of African-Americans in this country. Continue reading →
Katherine Newman, the interim chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston, has devoted much of her career to documenting conditions facing poor and working-class Americans. Her new book, Downhill From Here, Retirement Insecurity in the Age of Inequality, examines the perilous state of retirement in the United States. Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman recently talked with Newman about the dangers facing the pension system, Social Security and other forms of economic support for Americans as they grow older. The following is an edited version of their conversation.
Len Fishman: Your book reads in part like a post-mortem of the defined benefit pension system. Defined benefits provide a fixed pre-established benefit for employees at retirement, usually based on length of service and salary. They hit their high-water mark in 1980 and then plummeted. What happened?
Katherine Newman: Union density began to decline sharply at the same point. The defined benefit pension system is very much a creature of the collective bargaining power of unions. That’s why defined benefit systems tended to exist mainly where there were unionized workers. And as union density slipped — in part because of deregulation and industry competition – the strength behind the defined benefits began to shrink. Today, a very small minority of Americans have what we would call true pensions – 401(k) plans are definitely not pensions in terms of security and employer responsibility for investment. Continue reading →