Ken Byrne: Building caregiver personas

by Taylor Patskanick

My name is Ken Byrne, and I’m currently a sophomore at MIT studying computer science and finance. After discovering the AgeLab through MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) this past spring, I began working there for the first time this summer. I was fortunate enough to work in person, which enabled me to connect and interact with so many talented and positive researchers on a daily basis.

I worked on the CareHive Research Panel, which consists of an online panel of caregivers who provide care to adult family members. The fast-paced and collaborative environment of the AgeLab permitted me to assist the rest of the CareHive team early on as I attended interviews with caregivers and constructed visualizations depicting these interviews as a part of the AgeLab’sDay in the Life Study. From the diverse set of caregivers that I interacted with, I quickly came to realize how intertwined one’s caregiving responsibilities are with their regular daily activities. Upon completion of these interviews, I worked alongside another intern, Talia Chait, to create caregiver personas. The process of creating these personas involved grouping the interviewed caregivers by common characteristics to draw insights into how caregiving affects different facets of life for caregivers of varying employment statuses and living arrangements with their care recipients. Overall, this research helped broaden my understanding of a part of life that most people don’t think about unless they’re experiencing it firsthand.

Aside from working on the Day in the Life Study, I also created a research note on a CareHive survey concerning caregiver attitudes and behaviors towards COVID-19 boosters and vaccinations. As I reflect on my AgeLab experience, the emphasis that the lab placed on assigning me to projects that both satisfied my interests and also broadened my skillset was extremely evident. Through the projects that I was assigned to work on over the summer, I was able to enhance my technical skills while also developing stronger qualitative skills. Moreover, my personal growth stemming from my work was complemented by the relationships that I was able to form with AgeLab researchers and other interns on a daily basis.

Throughout the summer, it always seemed as though there was something new or exciting going on at the lab. Whether it be the opportunity to connect with new AgeLab researchers at a catered lunch or Thursday Speaker Series, attend a Lifestyle Leaders workshop, or contribute to administering a tour of the lab to AgeLab sponsors, this dynamic environment always left me thinking of what I could experience next and made me look forward to coming into work the next day.

I’d like to thank everyone at the AgeLab for making my summer experience so memorable. This glimpse into what life after college may be like was very hopeful, as I strive to someday work in an environment as productive and engaging as the AgeLab. As the fall approaches, I look forward to expanding upon the role that I began this summer as I continue to conduct research at the AgeLab!

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About the Author

Photo of Taylor Patskanick
Taylor Patskanick

Taylor Patskanick is a Technical Associate at the MIT AgeLab. Her current research explores preventive health and vaccination practices of older adults. Taylor co-coordinates the MIT AgeLab 85+ Lifestyle Leaders panel and contributes to the AgeLab’s AGNES program. She also manages OMEGA, an intergenerational summit and scholarship program. In addition to her work at the AgeLab, Taylor is the president of Boston Bridge, Inc., a Massachusetts-based professional development organization for leaders in the field of aging and is a licensed certified social worker (LCSW). Taylor is an adjunct faculty member at Simmons University in Boston, MA. Taylor earned her MPH and MSW from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and received her BSW from the University of Georgia.

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