The Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston and LeadingAge have joined forces to create a new research center called the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston. Katie Sloan, LeadingAge president and CEO; Len Fishman, director of the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston; and LTSS Center Co-directors Robyn Stone and Marc Cohen recently answered questions about the new center.
WHY DID LEADINGAGE AND UMASS BOSTON DECIDE TO CREATE THE LEADINGAGE LTSS CENTER @UMASS BOSTON?
Katie Sloan: LeadingAge and the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston share a strong commitment to improving the quality, affordability and accessibility of long-term services and supports (LTSS) through data and evidence of what really works. So, it made perfect sense for us to bring together our respective expertise and resources in a joint center focused on applied research in the LTSS field.
What excites me most about this new joint center is that it strengthens the capacity of both LeadingAge and the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston to explore and find solutions to the most pressing issues facing older Americans. Our joint center is sure to have a greater impact on practice and policy through applied research than either of us could accomplish alone.
For many years, LeadingAge members and their strategic partners at the local and state levels have been working jointly to strengthen each other’s capacity to meet common goals. Now, LeadingAge is following suit at the national level. We’re looking forward to this opportunity, through which we expect to conduct more and more in-depth applied research for the benefit of LeadingAge members and the people they serve.
Len Fishman: One of the most promising aspects of this partnership is that it will help UMass Boston and LeadingAge create valuable linkages between professional caregivers, administrators, public servants, researchers, and policy makers. We all care deeply about older adults and we all have our unique insights about how to best serve this population. But we work in different places, we use different language, we even attend different conferences.
I’m excited that this new center will find ways to bring these stakeholders together and blend their knowledge and perspectives on a broad spectrum of important issues. LeadingAge members, who represent the most innovative providers in the field, will be important partners in that work.
HOW DID LEADINGAGE CONNECT WITH UMASS BOSTON?
Robyn Stone: I’ve known Len and Marc for a long time. Sixteen years ago, when he was the president and CEO of LeadingAge, Len asked me to launch what is now the Center for Applied Research. And Marc and I have had a very good relationship for many years because we share a strong interest in applied research.
WHY IS UMASS BOSTON INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH LEADINGAGE?
Marc Cohen: The broader health field attracts a tremendous amount of research interest, but there’s not a huge amount of applied research being conducted in the LTSS area. We see real opportunities to expand that area of research, which will become increasingly important, given the changing demographics of the older population. We’re confident that the new LTSS Center will help us attract more students to the LTSS field and to provide those students with an enriched academic experience through formal internships and other work with the Center.
We’re really looking forward to building strong connections with LeadingAge members. We believe that good LTSS research needs to be informed by the insights of those who are actually delivering the care and services we’re examining.
Finally, it’s important to note that we are an urban university that focuses much of its work on the needs of vulnerable populations. A preponderance of individuals with LTSS needs find themselves facing significant challenges. Making life better for those individuals aligns strongly with the university’s mission.
HOW WILL THE NEW PARTNERSHIP BENEFIT LEADINGAGE?
Robyn Stone: LeadingAge stands to gain a great deal from this partnership. We will now have a strong connection with a prestigious university, which will give us more credibility among certain funders.
We’ll also be able to form new relationships with researchers working in the UMass Boston Gerontology Institute, and with UMass Boston graduate students, who can give us on-the-ground help with our work.
Finally, this merger will give us access to a university infrastructure that will strengthen our ability to conduct research. For instance, we’re looking forward to having access to the university’s extensive library, and to tapping into the data analysis expertise of university staff.
We’ve already benefitted from UMass Boston’s help. Len connected us with Commonwealth Medicine, a university data analysis group that is helping us on a new housing plus services project in Massachusetts. And earlier this year, Marc arranged for 3 UMass Boston graduate students to help us collect data for the LeadingAge Workforce Survey. We’re looking forward to getting even more help on a wide range of future projects.
WHAT NEW OPPORTUNITIES ARE AHEAD FOR THE NEW CENTER?
Robyn Stone: Marc and I are very interested in creating a workable model for how to conduct applied research in collaboration with aging services providers and state governments. We’re already working with state agencies in Massachusetts to advance policy around housing plus services strategies. If we can be successful in Massachusetts, we’re hoping that this could become a national activity that would bring applied researchers and providers together to do research and policy work in other states.
Marc Cohen: This goal aligns well with the Gerontology Institute’s strong interest in becoming more policy relevant. The new LTSS Center puts us in a great position to become a resource for state and federal policy makers, to conduct serious research and analyses for state agencies, and to evaluate interventions to see if they work and what kind of impact they’re having on providers and consumers.
We’re also excited about the LTSS Center’s relationship with Community Catalyst, a national nonprofit advocacy organization based in Boston. The Community Catalyst Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation will provide the LTSS Center with policy expertise focused on consumer needs. We all agree that those needs should be at the heart of our work.
WHAT IS YOUR LONG-TERM HOPE FOR THE NEW LTSS CENTER?
Marc Cohen: Robyn and I are convinced that we’ve got a unique model here. We’re bringing together a major research university, the premiere provider organization in the LTSS field, and a consumer advocacy and health organization that now has an LTSS focus. In the process, we’re certain that we’ve created a research center that will be stronger and will contribute more to the LTSS field than either of us could do alone.