For over five years, the 85+ Lifestyle Leaders panel has been a valuable source of research insights for the MIT AgeLab on the experiences of the “oldest old” in the United States. And over the years of working with the Lifestyle Leaders, AgeLab researchers have also developed personal connections with members of the panel.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the AgeLab has maintained its outreach with the Lifestyle Leaders, with the aim both of understanding how members of the oldest living generation are coping with the pandemic and of checking in on the panelists and providing them with some measure of social support during a challenging time. The AgeLab has also expanded its outreach, moving Lifestyle Leader sessions online to Zoom to be COVID-safe and opening the panel to national membership.
In December 2020, as part of its outreach efforts, the AgeLab organized and delivered 40 care packages to members of the Lifestyle Leaders panel. Members of the AgeLab research team made socially distant face-to-face home visits for Lifestyle Leaders who lived in greater Boston. A few packages were also mailed to panelists outside Massachusetts who had joined the Lifestyle Leaders panel as it expanded virtually and nationally during the pandemic. The contents of the packages were focused on promoting wellness (e.g., meditative coloring books), curiosity (a copy of Luke Yoquinto’s new book, Grasp, with a book light), and supporting local businesses in Boston whenever possible (with items from Granola Girl, Mem Tea, and Vermints).
In response to receiving her care package, one Lifestyle Leader, Dodie Catlett, wrote to the Lab, “This morning I’m wrapped in cozy, red plaid fleece, sipping a cuppa English Breakfast tea, and munching dee-licious gourmet granola. Last night I attached a clever reading light to Grasp and read the introduction before going to sleep … Your Holiday Gift Bag, filled with wonderful, thoughtful treats—was totally unexpected, totally welcome, totally useful, and totally appreciated!”
The AgeLab is recruiting new members of the Lifestyle Leaders panel from within the United States. Learn more here.