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National 4-H adopts BCTR program connecting youth with elders


three teenaged girls talking to an older woman

4-H'ers conducting an interview during 4-H Career Explorations

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

A Bronfenbrenner Center program that connects youth and older adults through advice-sharing has achieved a significant national distinction: approval as a national 4-H curriculum. The designation means that 4-H programs across the country can adopt the program.

Building a Community Legacy Together, or BCLT, is part of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging. The idea began when gerontologist Karl Pillemer began working on a book to capture the wisdom and advice for living on a variety of topics from older adults. Interviewers on the project, some of whom were students, were deeply influenced by their interviews with older adults. Pillemer wondered if this kind of wisdom-sharing interview could provide the same experience to youth participating in 4-H.

Pillemer and his colleague Leslie Schultz worked with 4-H leaders to develop a program that trains youth how to conduct life-lesson interviews with older adults from their community. Young people receive training about elder wisdom and in interviewing skills. They then conduct an interview with an older person, asking him or her to describe the major lessons learned of a long life. After youth interview the elders, they organize the lessons and create a public presentation to share with their community. To date, 150 youth in New York State have participated in the program.

“Older adults are an underutilized resource in communities who have a wealth of knowledge to share, and youth, in particular, can benefit from their life lessons,” said Leslie Schulz, BCLT project coordinator.  “Participating youth have consistently expressed a new-found respect for elders and appreciation for the actual advice elders offered during the interviews.”

Early research results have supported this feedback from youth. The evaluation of the program shows that it improves attitudes toward older people and combats the problem of ageism as the youth make meaningful connections with older members of their communities.  Youth also learn valuable research and life skills, such as interviewing and data collection techniques, report writing and public speaking.

The BCLT model is based on decades of experience developing intergenerational programs at the Bronfenbrenner Center. “We live in a society that is increasingly segregated by age, in which young people have little contact with elders outside of intermittent interactions in their own families,” Pillemer said. “This program takes basic research on the causes of ageism and the importance of intergenerational engagement, and turns it into a program that can be implemented across the country.”

The BCLT curriculum is offered online to implementers with a full curriculum, tools, instructions, handouts and other materials . Pillemer and Schultz are planning national dissemination activities to encourage both youth and elder service organizations to adopt the program. You can learn more and request the training manual on the BCLT website.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: BCLT    gerontology    Karl Pillemer    Leslie Schultz    youth development   

Talks at Twelve: Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Monday, October 15, 2018

portrait of peter lloyd-sherlock View Media

Talks at Twelve: Peter Lloyd-Sherlock

Researching Unregulated Residential Care Homes in Argentina
October 11, 2017

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock
University of East Anglia, UK


Researching Unregulated Residential Care Homes in Argentina
October 11, 2017

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock
University of East Anglia, UK

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: aging    BCTR Talks at Twelve    gerontology    international   

Talks at Twelve: T.V. Sekher, Monday, October 15, 2018

portrait of T.V. Sekher View Media

Talks at Twelve: T.V. Sekher

Designing and Implementing the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India
May 25, 2017

T.V. Sekher
International Institute for Population Sciences


Designing and Implementing the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India
May 25, 2017

T.V. Sekher
International Institute for Population Sciences

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Record number receive gerontology minor


Photo of Corinna Loeckenhoff, Sylvia Lee and an academic poster on gerontology

Corinna Loeckenhoff and graduating gerontology minor student Sylvia Lee with a research poster Sylvia is presenting

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

A record number of students will be graduating this year with a minor in gerontology from the College of Human Ecology. Twenty-four students are on track to complete the minor requirements, said associate professor Corinna Loeckenhoff, director of the program. The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research administers the gerontology minor program.

The College launched its gerontology minor in 2010 to offer students a grounding in the issues connected to an aging population. The curriculum offers a choice of more than 20 courses in a wide range of disciplines including design, psychology, human development, policy, and nutrition – all with an eye on the needs of older adults. Students from any major at Cornell University who complete the 12 required credits can earn the undergraduate gerontology minor.

“The population is rapidly aging all over the world, but especially in the U.S. Not only are Americans living longer and getting older, but older adults in the U.S. are changing,” Loeckenhoff said. The U.S. population has become more diverse in recent decades, and now the population of older adults is becoming more diverse as well.

“We need to prepare students to work in this environment,” she said. “The minor is relevant to students pursuing a wide range of careers because everyone will need to serve old adults – people who design cars, people who work in hotels, people who plan to work in the health care industry, trial lawyers who will have to consider the court testimony of older adults. In all areas of life, the greater proportion of older adults will need to be addressed.”

The minor program offers students opportunities to become involved in research projects with faculty in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, work as teaching assistants in gerontology courses, and apply for an experiential learning opportunity in Ithaca, New York City, or Washington D.C.

Before the minor was officially established, the College offered a gerontology certificate, but the minor is more meaningful because it documents the students’ experience in gerontology on their official transcript, Loeckenhoff said.

Students who are interested in gerontology often take related classes without realizing they could be pursing a minor, Loeckenhoff said.

“We want students who are interested in gerontology to learn more about our program and consider how a minor could help them in the future,” she said.

(2) Comments.  |   Tags: Corinna Loeckenhoff    gerontology    gerontology minor    students   

The science of successful aging


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

What’s the secret to successful aging?  That’s the question two BCTR researchers took on at a panel discussion “The Science of Successful Aging” at the 2017 International Convention on Psychological Science, where thousands of researchers from more than 70 countries gathered to share research findings and techniques.

headshot of corinna loeckenhoff

Corinna Loeckenhoff

BCTR faculty affiliate Corinna Lockenhoff, associate professor of human development, chaired the panel. She began by discussing the idea of “successful aging,” which today often means thriving socially and intellectually in older adulthood.

“The concept may not generalize across cultures,” she said. “But one clear benefit of this new perspective on aging is that it encourages renewed focus on the processes that contribute to positive age-related outcomes.”

Lockenhoff said the panel sparked an interesting conversation because researchers approached the concept of successful aging from different vantage points.

“The presenters each highlighted a different approach to promote successful aging – from cardiovascular and strength training to cognitive and social engagement,” she said. “Ideally we should design interventions that integrate multiple aspects into one program.

“The audience in the symposium was composed of top researchers from around the world and it was fascinating to hear their ideas for realizing such programs within different cultural contexts,” she said.

Headshot of Karl Pillemer

Karl Pillemer

During the panel, BCTR director Karl Pillemer presented his work about aging adults' need to engage in meaningful activities.

Social isolation is a major problem later if life, Pillemer said. That’s because as older adults start to experience losses due to divorce, death, and geographical mobility, they also tend to transition out of full-time employment. This transition often results in older adults losing the sense of purpose that comes with full-time work.

Pillemer and BCTR colleagues have been evaluating an intervention program called Retirees in Service to the Environment, or RISE, to help aging adults regain their sense of purpose. RISE engages retirees in volunteer positions around environmental issues. RISE participants receive training about environmental topics and how to apply their skills in a volunteer capacity. Then, participants each build and implement an environmental stewardship project.

In studies of RISE, adults who participate reported an increased sense that they were contributing to the next generation and an improved sense of social integration.

“We really have no alternative other than to address these issues,” Pillemer said. “We can’t promote successful aging, based on what we know, without also engaging in the promotion of social integration.”

Other participants in the panel were Teresa Liu-Ambrose from Department of Physical Therapy at The University of British Columbia; Monica Fabiani in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Denise C. Park from The Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas.

At the same conference, Lockenhoff led a workshop called “Age Differences in Time Perception: Translating Findings from Lab to Life,” which provided an overview of age-related shifts in different aspects of time perception and offered examples of how such concepts can be studied along the translational continuum.

Related:

Connecting Retirees to Conservation

Climate Change and Vulnerable Populations

"Aging is not Dying" - podcast episode with Corinna Loeckenhoff

Loeckenhoff reaps early-career award in gerontology

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Talks at Twelve: Heather Derry and Elizabeth Luth, Wednesday, May 2, 2018

 
portraits of Heather Derry and Elizabeth Luth

Two talks by Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine postdocs
Heather Derry and Elizabeth Luth, Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
12:00-1:15 PM
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room



Stress and Cognition in Clinical Discussions:  Exploring the Impact on Prognostic Understanding for Advanced Cancer Patients
Heather Derry, PhD, T32 Postdoctoral Fellow, Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

For patients with advanced cancer, clinical discussions about prognosis can be stressful.  In addition, patients’ prognostic understanding is often limited, which presents challenges for informed decision-making.  Laboratory-based research provides insight into the ways that stress influences our physical, emotional, and cognitive responses.  Heather will discuss how these responses may interface with clinical discussions in the context of advanced cancer, and future studies to assess the impact of stress and emotion on patients’ understanding of their illness.

Understanding Race Disparities in End-of-Life Care for Patients Living with Dementia
Elizabeth Luth, PhD, T32 Postdoctoral Fellow, Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

Research documents racial and ethnic disparities in end-of-life (EOL) care, where patients from racial and ethnic minority groups receive more aggressive, burdensome care, and have less access to quality-of-life promoting care at EOL. However, disparities in EOL care are not well understood for the growing population of patients with dementia. Elizabeth will share results from two recent studies of race, dementia, advance care planning, and assessments of EOL care quality and how those findings link to her current research on racial and ethnic differences in terminal hospital care and unfavorable hospice outcomes for patients with dementia.

portrait of Heather DerryHeather Derry is a T32 postdoctoral associate in Behavioral Geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine.  She completed her PhD in psychology at the Ohio State University, where her dissertation work evaluated how physical fitness impacts cognitive function among post-surgery breast cancer survivors.  She also completed a clinical health psychology internship at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA, with training emphases in geropsychology, primary care mental health integration, and women's addictions treatment.  Heather’s graduate-level research focused on the behavioral and physiological connections between stress, lifestyle factors, and health.  Her current work aims to assess mental health symptoms in seriously ill medical patients during and following hospital discharge, with the goal of enhancing post-discharge mental and physical health.

portrait of Elizabeth LuthElizabeth Luth is a T32 postdoctoral associate in Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. She completed her PhD in sociology at Rutgers University.  Elizabeth's graduate research focused on social and demographic disparities in assessments of end-of-life care quality for deceased older adults. At Weill Cornell, she is extending this work by investigating racial and ethnic disparities in quality of care for patients with advanced dementia near the end of life.


Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Botanic Gardens lot across the road from Beebe Hall. No registration or RSVP required except for groups of 5 or more. We ask that larger groups email Lori Biechele at lb274@cornell.edu letting us know of your plans to attend so that we can order enough lunch.

(1) Comment.  |   Tags: aging    BCTR Talks at Twelve    gerontology    health    healthcare    mental health    race    Weill Cornell   

Matthew Avila awarded Kendal at Ithaca Scholarship


Portrait Matthew Avila

Matthew Avila

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Matthew Avila, a senior in the Department of Human Development, will receive this year’s Kendal at Ithaca Scholarship for students interested in pursuing a career in gerontology. The scholarship was established by an anonymous Cornell alumnus living at Kendal of Ithaca, a continuing care retirement community located a mile from the Cornell campus.

Avila is working towards a gerontology minor as part of his bachelor’s degree, and plans to pursue a career researching the relationship between aging and disease.

“I want to explore the idea that growing old and disease are two separate constructs,” Avila said. “In other words, I will use the knowledge I gained from gerontology to fight against the stigma of aging, reduce age-related bias in my research, make accurate conclusions about the aging population, and produce good science.”

Corinna Loeckenhoff, the director of Cornell’s Gerontology Minor Program as well as Avila’s honors thesis advisor, commented, “What impressed the jurors about Matthew’s application is his continuous engagement with gerontology across multiple areas ranging from formal classwork to research and volunteering.”

At Cornell, Avila is involved with the Alzheimer’s Help and Awareness Club, a team of students dedicated to raising public awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and supporting Alzheimer’s patients.

And last summer, he was a research assistant at Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, where he worked on a brain-imaging study to examine how older adults who suffer from depression regulate their emotions.

“This experience provided me with the opportunity to learn how to do research in older populations as it relates to mental health and emotion regulation, and develop my skill set for research design,” he said.

This is the 17th year of the Kendal at Ithaca Scholarship. The donor, who built a career in the corporate world after graduating from Cornell in the 1940’s, first learned about gerontology work at  Cornell by participating in a study about the transition to living in a retirement community.

The donor’s goal was to build a lasting link between Kendal at Ithaca and Cornell so that “more students have a chance to learn about the colorful, interesting lives and careers of retirees, and more residents have an opportunity to better understand students of today – their hopes, thoughts, and dreams.”

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Welcome visiting scholar Peter Lloyd-Sherlock


Peter Lloyd-Sherlock

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock

The BCTR welcomes visiting scholar Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, a professor of social policy and international development at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. Lloyd-Sherlock’s research focuses on the health and well-being of older adults in low- and middle-income countries.

“As the Bronfenbrenner Center continues to extend its international reach, we are excited to have Peter join us,” said Karl Pillemer, director of the BCTR. “He is a noted expert on old-age policy in developing countries, with extensive experience working in Africa and Latin America. We will also benefit from his expertise in aging, which is a growing emphasis of the center.”

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock currently has active research projects in Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, and South Africa. At the BCTR, he hopes to apply some of the insights from center research on U.S. nursing homes to poorer countries, where nursing homes are becoming increasingly widespread and regulation is very weak, he said.

“Contrary to popular belief, more older people live in the developing world than in the rich north,” he said. “Despite this, the condition of older people and the wider effects of population aging are still seen as peripheral concerns in development policy.”

Recently, he led a study to develop new ways to audit residential care quality in La Plata, Argentina. The country has 6,000 care homes for older people. Media reports often reveal poor quality care, in some cases amounting to abuses of residents’ human rights. Most care homes in Argentina are unregulated, which makes it difficult to collect data about the quality of care.

Lloyd-Sherlock serves as an advisor for a several of international agencies, including the World Health Organization, United Nations Women, and HelpAge International.

Lloyd-Sherlock is delivering a BCTR Talk at Twelve titled Researching Unregulated Residential Care Homes in Argentina at noon on Wednesday, October 11 in the 2nd floor conference room at Beebe Hall.

And you can learn more about his work in this episode of our Doing Translational Research podcast: Ep. 15: Aging and Insecurity

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(0) Comments.  |   Tags: aging    doing translational research    gerontology    Karl Pillemer    podcast    visiting scholar   

Joining forces to ease chronic pain


triplllogo-smallerBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Pain relievers are some of the most commonly-used medicines among older adults. But a Cornell-based organization called the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life, or TRIPLL, is exploring alternative ways to alleviate pain in older adults.

TRIPLL is one of the most active and long-standing collaborations among the Cornell campuses — comprising researchers and graduate students at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Researcher (BCTR), Weill Cornell Medicine, and Cornell Tech, plus dozens of community organizations serving seniors in New York City.

“It’s a very broad and deep collaboration,” said Karl Pillemer, TRIPLL co-director and director of the BCTR. “Because of our use of video conferencing, Skype and frequent meetings, it’s honestly not much different than if we were all in the same building. A number of us work with our TRIPLL colleagues even more than with people on our own campuses.”

TRIPLL was founded in 2009 with a grant from the National Institute on Aging. It is one of 12 federally-funded Edward R. Roybal Centers for Translational Research on Aging across the nation; each one focuses on a different aspect related to the health and well-being of older Americans.

TRIPLL brings together faculty from a variety of disciplines, including clinical medicine, epidemiology, gerontology, the social and behavioral sciences, computer science to focus non-pharmacologic methods of pain relief.

“Pain is a huge problem — it’s one of the things that keeps people homebound,” says Riverdale Senior Services director Julia Schwartz-Leeper, who regularly uses the institute’s webinars to train her staff. “The work that TRIPLL does is critically important.”

Karl Pillemer and Elaine Wethington

Karl Pillemer and Elaine Wethington

As the American population ages, the issue of treating pain in older adults is only getting more pressing. TRIPLL co-director Dr. Elaine Wethington, a medical sociologist and an associate director at the BCTR, notes that one-third of older adults has chronic pain — “and the majority of those find inadequate relief.”

Effective, evidence-based alternatives to pharmaceuticals are needed because many older adults have pre-existing conditions, such as heart failure or kidney problems, that pain medicines can exacerbate. The epidemic of opioid abuse also complicates matters. Fear of addiction may discourage older people from taking pain drugs. And reducing the number of opioid prescriptions keeps the drugs out of a medicine cabinet where they could be misused by family members or others, Pillemer said.

“Our inability to deal with chronic pain through non-drug methods is a huge problem,” he said. “In terms of an issue that makes the largest number of people miserable, chronic pain is at the top. But it’s not a high-profile problem that has an easy cure, so it doesn’t attract as much research funding.”

In an effort to combat the problem, TRIPLL’s researchers award grants for pilot studies; hold monthly seminars linking researchers on the various campuses; mentor graduate students, post-docs, fellows and junior faculty; and serve as a resource to New York City community service agencies, whose tens of thousands of clients provide a deep bench of volunteers for research studies.

“For years there’s been a consensus among researchers that pain is not just a biological phenomenon, it’s also a social and a psychological one, but there are few centers in the United States that look at pain from this biopsychosocial perspective,” Wethington said. “Our commitment is to understand these aspects as completely as we can — to get really smart people working on them, to publish papers in places where they’ll have an effect on practice.”

This story is adapted from an article that was first published in Weill Cornell Medicine, Vol. 16, No. 1.

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(1) Comment.  |   Tags: aging    Elaine Wethington    gerontology    Karl Pillemer    pain    TRIPLL   

Spring 2017 Talks at Twelve


This semester we welcome speakers from across campus and across the U.S. for our spring 2017 Talks at Twelve series. Talks at Twelve are held in the Beebe Hall second floor conference room and lunch is served. These talks are free and open to all. No RSVP or registration is required, but notice is appreciated if a larger group is planning to attend (email pmt6@cornell.edu).

Wednesday, February 22, 12:00-1:00pm
Mental and Behavioral Health Facilities: Critical Research and Design Recommendations
Mardelle M. Shepley, Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University

comfortTuesday, March 7, 12:00-1:00pm
Beyond the Peer-Reviewed Article: Making Research Relevant for Community Stakeholders and Policymakers
Megan Comfort, Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Research Division, Research Triangle Institute

Thursday, March 16, 12:00-1:00pm
Pain and Presence: The Clinical Use of Media
Andrea Stevenson Won, Communication, Cornell University

Thursday, April 13, 12:00-1:00pm
Healthy Base Initiative: Evaluating Programs to Encourage Healthy Eating, Active Lifestyles, and Tobacco-Free Living
Marney Thomas, BCTR, Cornell University

Thursday, April 20, 12:00-1:00pm
Data Driven Policy-Making in Child Welfare
Dana Weiner, Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago

Tuesday, April 25, 12:00-1:00pm
Weill Cornell Behavioral Geriatrics: Cognitive Impairment in Hospitalized Adults & Palliative & Mental Health Care
Elissa Kozlov and Keiko Kurita, Weill Cornell Medical College

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