Researchers Present at 2020 GSA Conference

by Adam Felts

AgeLab researchers gave multiple presentations at the 2020 Gerontological Society of America conference, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Conference participants presented on findings derived from research conducted with the 85+ Lifestyle Leaders panel, from a survey of experts on the future of technologies for caregiving, and from focus groups and national survey data on the impact of student loans on older women’s longevity planning.

One symposium, organized by Dr. Julie Miller, featured several AgeLab researchers’ findings from studies conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic with the 85+ Lifestyle Leaders Panel. A presentation led by Taylor Patskanick discussed medication management among these adults aged 85 and older, including the potential use of technology to aid older adults with managing medications. Ease of use arose as the most important feature among participants for use of a medication management device. Dr. Lisa D’Ambrosio also shared results from a study with the Lifestyle Leaders regarding transportation, including how the over-85 demographic are planning for their future transportation needs and their perceptions of self-driving vehicles.

Dr. Martina Raue presented results from a pilot study also with the Lifestyle Leaders on the importance of resources—financial, social, cognitive, physical, and psychological—for wellbeing and coping with challenges in older ages. The study observed that older adults are likely to experience declines in their resources as they age, but that other resources, such as optimism and self-esteem, may compensate to bolster wellbeing.

AgeLab researchers also presented results from multiple AgeLab studies related to COVID-19. Ms. Patskanick presented results from a study with members of the Lifestyle Leaders panel on their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. The study illuminated panelists’ strategies for managing the risk of the virus, their struggles with social isolation and accessing resources, and heightened feelings of mortality amid the pandemic. Dr. Julie Miller presented results from a national survey conducted by the MIT AgeLab in March 2020. The survey was the first of multiple national AgeLab surveys to explore COVID-19-related attitudes and behaviors of adults across the life course in the areas of housing, transportation, health, family, work, technology use, and more.

Dr. Miller also presented results from a mixed methods study about student loan repayment, longevity planning, and family dynamics. Her presentation focused on the experiences of women ages 51-75 who were repaying student loans for themselves and/or for family members. A national survey and focus groups pointed to ways in which student loans exacerbate older women’s financial precarity and lack of retirement preparedness in ways that are unique from their male counterparts.

AgeLab Technical Associate John Rudnik led a conference symposium that discussed findings from two surveys of experts on the future of caregiving technologies. The symposium, which included presentations by a group of AgeLab researchers, revealed how different caregiving tasks and activities may be impacted by new technologies and potential benefits; possible impacts of new technologies on related topics including elder abuse and fraud, service delivery, and labor and education; and possible future scenarios and expert predictions for 2030. He also gave a presentation, drawing on findings from the Lifestyle Leaders panel, which discussed civic participation and information technology usage among the oldest old. AgeLab Research Scientist Chaiwoo Lee also discussed how different caregiving tasks and activities would be impacted by new technologies, and AgeLab Research Scientist Lisa D’Ambrosio described the impacts of new technologies on related topics including elder abuse and fraud; service delivery; and labor and education. AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin chaired the symposium, and Terry Fulmer of the John A. Hartford Foundation, a sponsor of the research, was a discussant.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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