Governor Charlie Baker recently honored Beth Dugan, PhD, associate professor of gerontology at UMass Boston, for her five years of service on the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts.
Dugan joined 23 other stakeholders on the council, including co-chairs Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services, and philanthropist Eileen Connors. Governor Baker created the council in 2017 with the aim of promoting healthy aging across Massachusetts. The group concluded its service this fall as Baker prepares to step down from his post at the end of the year.
Dugan, whose research focuses on healthy aging, brought valuable data to the council, including her “Healthy Aging MA” reports. The reports help residents, agencies, providers, and governments understand the older adults who live in their cities and towns by reporting their ages, living arrangements, and health status along with community strengths and vulnerabilities. The data helped the council identify challenges such as which communities have high rates of diabetes or low walkability scores. Part of the council’s success, she says, is that it facilitated collaboration across different arms of state government, from transportation to health and more, to address aging challenges. “Making progress on policy level initiatives can be a slog unless you have buy-in,” which the council and its representatives provided.
“We worked to harness the advantages our state has in terms of education, research, healthcare, tech, and finance. How do we harness these strengths to become the Silicon Valley of aging innovations?” Dugan says. “I’ve worked in gerontology for a long time, and this is the first time I’ve heard a governor say he wanted to do something about aging.”
Watch video from Governor Baker, looking back on the work of the Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts: