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.

Rouleau’s paper, A Blueprint for the Baby Boomers and Beyond: Multigenerational Aging Centers, analyzes the traditional model of community senior centers and proposes strategies to introduce other members of the community.

Rouleau acknowledged that the standard model of senior centers has its merits. But she argued it has also created a culture of sustained age segregation that can be detrimental to both seniors and their communities. Implementing a multi-generational model within these centers could vastly improve community perception of the aging population and increase socialization opportunities for all generations, she wrote.

In addition, Rouleau wrote, the intergenerational center model has been shown to improve the emotional and physical well-being of elder residents and decrease competition for limited resources by creating synergy among community organizations.

Strack was honored for her research on property taxes and senior homeowners. Her paper, Local Senior Property Tax Relief Program: New Tax Relief by Reading, Massachusetts examines the importance of reducing homeownership costs by offering property tax relief programs for seniors. She pointed out that many seniors consider their homes an invaluable asset and desire to remain there as they grow older.

However, property taxes can pose a serious financial challenge and many seniors struggle to afford to stay in their homes. A municipal tax relief program that was recently adopted in Reading, Mass., was heralded as an effective way to address the problem. Strack attributes the Reading program’s success to its use of the Circuit Breaker Credit model for eligibility testing, providing an easy application process, and allowing the community to control the amount of credit given.

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