Throughout her career in aging services, Stacey Minchello, MS ’23, has seen plenty of growth and change in the community-based supports industry. She wholeheartedly believes that community support assists our older adults to remain in the community. The recent COVID 19 pandemic brought particular challenges to her field. “During the pandemic, we put every effort into supporting our older adults in the community in whatever way we could, even at the expense of ourselves. Compassion fatigue was real, but we knew the threat and fear of the virus, coupled with the effects of social isolation and loneliness was more devastating to our older residents.”
Still, Minchello finds great rewards in helping people to age in place. “At the end of the day, I always say what a great deal! I get paid to fill other people’s joy tanks while filling my own. It’s a very rewarding job.”
In August 2023, Minchello was named executive director of The Community Family, a nonprofit adult day health organization with centers in three Greater Boston municipalities. Her previous jobs include leading the Councils on Aging for the cities of Melrose and Lynn, Massachusetts. The move takes her from the public health realm of Councils on Aging and into the world of project management, caregiving, and likely some legislative advocacy work.
In 2020, Minchello enrolled in the master’s in Management of Aging Services program at UMass Boston, looking to update her knowledge base. “I felt the UMass program was the best resource for keeping up with the most modern innovations in the field,” she says.
Her MAS classmates brought diverse work experiences, from assisted living managers to physical therapists, and some were older adults themselves. She took classes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when she and many of her classmates were serving as “boots on the ground,” pivoting and modifying their programs to help isolated older adults. She appreciated all the sharing of best practices among her fellow students. They had so much to share with each other that “one of our faculty members joked that she never had to moderate our chat rooms.”
Minchello’s MAS capstone project looked at delivering person-centered, medically tailored meals to older adults. She sees great opportunities for building our understanding of nutrition and food service for older adults and what it means for their health. “In the ‘70s, it was easy to say we give people a meal, they get a friendly visitor, that’s good,” she says. “Now with data analytics, we can examine more in depth measurable outcomes and assist with social determinants of health.
She recommends the MAS program particularly to help people understand the changing nature of older adults and their needs and interests. As the percentage of the population over age 65 grows, many of those older adults “will be joining kayak clubs” and pursuing other such activities, she says. “We need to understand that transition.”
Another benefit of the program is plugging into a strong network of peers. Minchello already had a strong professional network from her many years in the field. “But once you join the MAS program,” she says, “you become part of a forever network.”
The award-winning Management of Aging Services master’s program at UMass Boston, part of the second oldest graduate gerontology department in the world, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023. The flexible, fully online program allows students to pursue a master’s degree at their own pace. Working professionals as well as newcomers to the fast-growing field of aging services will gain practical skills and relevant perspectives from faculty who have rich experience in the field.