This article originally appeared on the UMass Boston News web page.
We all take different paths in life and, if we’re lucky, we have mentors guiding us along the way. As an undergraduate psychology major, 20-year-old Ellen Birchander was on track to fail her journalism class unless she completed an upcoming article assignment. She was directed by her professor to open the yellow pages and interview someone listed as a contact in the first advertisement she saw, which happened to be Greater Lynn Senior Services. Her assignment not only received an A but led to the first job she’d have in the field of aging.
Out of this serendipity came a passion for the work of aging that developed and evolved over the next 40 years. Birchander went on to lead the development of programs and delivery of services for the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, where she served as Assistant Secretary for Programs. Now, after making a career transition from public affairs to public education, she is teaching, mentoring, and co-directing the Management of Aging Services (MAS) Graduate Program in the Department of Gerontology. Continue reading
Lisa Gurgone is the executive director of Mass Home Care, the trade association representing the Commonwealth’s network of 28 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) and Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). This single, statewide network of coordinated care delivers home and community based services to over 60,000 individuals per month, providing over $600 million per year in services.
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman spoke with Gurgone recently about home care services and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected both consumers and workers providing care. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Len Fishman: What would a composite profile of a consumer you serve look like?
Lisa Gurgone: The typical age is 82 and about one in five are 90 or older. About 55 percent live alone. We have a lot of women with basic homecare needs, someone to help with shopping and food prep. They may need some bathing assistance or have trouble getting dressed in the morning. People sometimes stay in our system for a very long time and may need additional services as they age. We might sub-contract with a visiting nurses association to provide more skilled care. It runs the gamut but the goal is to help these people stay in the community as long as they want. Continue reading
Editor-in-chief Edward Alan Miller
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on older adults around the world has been nothing short of breathtaking. Like any sudden crisis, it begs a few common questions: What actually happened and how did we respond? What lessons should we take from that experience? And, most importantly, what do we do now?
In a special double-issue of the Journal of Aging and Social Policy, dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, leading gerontology researchers tackle those questions from a wide range of perspectives. The issue, Older Adults and COVID-19: Implications for Aging Policy and Practice, offers 28 scholarly articles available online free of charge.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated populations and economies globally but older adults have been particularly hard hit, due both to direct exposure to the virus itself and to the adverse consequences of efforts taken to mitigate its effects,” said Edward Alan Miller, a University of Massachusetts Boston gerontology professor and JASP’s editor-in-chief. Continue reading
The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the ways education takes place at all levels and institutions, including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston. OLLI, which serves an older student population with an elevated COVID-19 risk, responded quickly to the virus early in its spring semester.
The Gerontology Institute Blog recently talked with James Hermelbracht, the director of UMass Boston’s OLLI program, about the decisions that were made, what actually happened in the spring and how that experience is shaping plans for the fall semester and beyond. The following transcript is edited for space and clarity.
Q: Let’s start by describing how the COVID-19 pandemic completely upended plans for the spring OLLI semester.
A: It played out on several levels. Things were changing so quickly as soon as the semester started. We were already hearing a few members say, “Maybe not this semester.” They were seeing the news and felt unsure about being in a classroom or taking public transportation. We were three days into our spring semester when the decision was made to first postpone. That was mid-March and we postponed until April 1. But it became very clear that our members, being in the high-risk category for age, were not that enthusiastic about coming back. We decided to cancel or postpone our entire spring semester just a few days prior to the university making the decision that everything would become remote. Continue reading
Relationships between senior children and their very old parents can be complicated enough. How does those relationships change when the parent is living with dementia?
UMass Boston Gerontology associate professor Kathrin Boerner has spent two years studying the relationships between older adults and their parents, an increasingly common phenomena involving people in their 60’s and 70’s with parents living well into their 90’s. The ongoing project has already attracted broad interest and media coverage in The New York Times and The Boston Globe.
The study’s original design, funded by the National Institute on Aging, was based exclusively on interviews with senior children and their parents together. But researchers found they had to turn away a significant number of volunteering senior children whose parents, living with dementia, could not be interviewed. They were missing an important part of the story. Continue reading
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
By Claire Wickersham
UMass Boston’s newest class of Gerontology PhD graduates are heading out into a world – and a job market – unseen by any of their predecessors.
The good news: As a group, they have their immediate work future well in hand. Many secured post-graduation positions or commitments well before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Some are working in jobs they had held for some time.
Among the freshly-minted PhDs, Danielle Waldron is the newest tenure-track assistant professor in Healthcare Administration at Stonehill College. She will teach courses in gerontology, disability, and methods, while continuing research in aging with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 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
This conversation with Gerontology associate professor Elizabeth Dugan was conducted by the McCormack Graduate School and first appeared on the UMass Boston News web page.
Q: Can we start by talking a bit about the aging population in Massachusetts and how it’s similar or different from other places facing the COVID-19 crisis?
Beth Dugan: I would say overall, we have more positives to work with. Here in Massachusetts, we have more than a million people who are 65 and older, so we have more older people than other states. And one thing that’s interesting to think about is that longevity is a new experience in terms of human development. We’re about the first or second generation where most people could expect to live to old age. Continue reading
Kate and Michael Martin, foreground, with their parents, Thomas and Susan Martin.
By Taryn Hojlo
Kate Martin and her family were exasperated. Her older brother, Michael, desperately needed professional care to help manage his health and daily needs. But there were few providers in Las Vegas who accepted Michael’s insurance, and even fewer who seemed capable of treating him with the same dignity and respect that other patients received without a second thought.
After a lifelong struggle with epilepsy, Michael had considerable physical and intellectual impairments. Although his condition made him eligible for Medicaid, finding local services that would accept it proved to be a struggle. Those that did often neglected to treat Michael as an individual and failed to involve him in the management of his own care. There were times when Michael wasn’t even addressed during his own appointments.
“He struggled pretty significantly with access to care and getting what he needed,” says Martin, a family physician who will be graduating from UMass Boston Gerontology’s Management of Aging Service masters program later this month. Continue reading