The Gerontological Society of America Fellows for 2018. All Rights Reserved. Credit: Kyle Klein Photography
The Gerontological Society of America, known as the GSA, is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. Founded in 1945, the GSA’s principal mission is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers and the general public.
In 2010, the GSA launched a pioneering initiative — “The Journalists in Aging Fellows Program.” This program seeks to educate journalists about issues in aging, better allowing them to spread a new awareness both to ethnic and general-audience populations about new scientific findings, policy debates, innovations and evidence-based solutions in the area of aging. Pursuant to the program’s guidelines, the GSA engages in a yearly competitive selection process and in 2018, the GSA invited twenty journalists from around the nation to participate in its “Annual Scientific Meeting.” This past November, Boston welcomed over 4,300 delegates from 37 countries to this yearly event, along with the twenty 2018 Fellows.
This year’s Fellows included print journalists from The Chattanooga Times Free Press,The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The New York Times, Next Avenue, USA Today and The Wisconsin State Journal. Other Fellows came from radio, representing NPR stations in Bowling Green, Louisville and San Francisco. The ethnic media enjoyed impressive representation – with Fellows from India West, La Opinión, Mundo Hispánico, NBC Latino, Positively Filipino and more. Also included in this august group was yours truly – Brad Pomerance from Jewish Life Television. As if the honor of selection was not enough, I had no idea how much I would gain – both personally and professionally – from the Fellowship.
The Fellowship began with a pre-conference seminar, where the Fellows heard from an array of incredibly impressive experts in aging. While isolating highlights from this daylong event is a bit difficult, a few do stick out.
- Professor Robert Hudson from Boston University delved into the 2018 Midterm Election. He remarked that much was made of Donald Trump’s success among adults 65+ during the 2016 election, where he beat Hillary Clinton among this age group by a seven-point margin, 52% v. 45%. Professor Hudson opined that the 2018 Midterm Election suggests that that support may be sliding. Adults 65+ preferred the Republican congressional candidate over the Democrat by a margin of two points, 50% v. 48%, a significant five-point shift to the Democrats.
- Professor Toni Miles from the University of Georgia spoke about the scourge that is ageism. She detailed the huge structural inequities that older adults face. Although discrimination may be waning against many distinct groups, be it based on ethnicity, faith, gender or sexual orientation, Professor Miles noted that the fight against systemic ageism remains in its infancy.
- 2018 Fellow Mary Kane from Kiplinger’s Retirement Report offered one delicious anecdote. She reminded us that she regularly interviews older adults about their financial challenges. She continued, recounting that before each interview, she still expects that her interviewees will describe the specific struggles they face managing their money in retirement. Not so much. One recurring theme repeatedly surfaces in her many interviews. Older adults obsessively fret over the frequent inequity they are forced to endure when splitting those pesky restaurant checks. Needless to say, the room got quite a chuckle over that one.
After the pre-conference, the Fellows were let loose to conduct research on their chosen topic. With 450 scientific sessions and over 2,300 speakers, suffice it say, the Fellows were faced with a flurry of experts to interview for their respective stories. I am investigating Mental Health in Older Jewish Adults and fortunately for me, the Meeting welcomed a cadre of experts that could intelligently address this topic.
- I interviewed Rabbi Gail Gaisin Glicksman from Bryn Mawr College and Dr. Allen Glicksman from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. We discussed distinctive behaviors among Older Jewish Americans relating to their health care, as well as psychological challenges that Holocaust survivors face in older age.
- I spoke with Professor Keith Morgen from Centenary University and Alyssa Reiner from Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey about the emotional regulation of anxiety and depression among Older Holocaust Survivors.
- I interviewed Dr. Ella Schwartz from Hebrew University of Jerusalem about the psychological impact of missile attacks during the 2014 Gaza War on Older Israelis.
My research on this weighty topic continues. Yet it is undeniable that this year’s GSA Scientific Meeting provided me with tremendous access to highly-qualified experts from around the world, all while exposing me to concepts and ideas that will allow my investigation to blossom in ways I would have never expected. “Mental Health Among Older Jewish Adults” is scheduled to air on Jewish Life Television in mid-2019.
Brad under the “Aging Fellows Program” sign. Credit: courtesy of GSA.
If you would like to learn more about the Gerontological Society of America, you can sign onto www.geron.org
This article was written with the support of a journalism fellowship from the Gerontological Society of America, Journalists Network on Generations and the Silver Century Foundation. The author would also like to thank Paul Kleyman and Todd Kluss for their invaluable assistance.