Sharing our caregiving research and making new connections at GSA 2019

By Jenna McDavid and Ocean Le

Last week, the Diverse Elders Coalition traveled to Austin, Texas for our first-ever Gerontological Society of America annual scientific meeting. This yearly event brings together researchers, academics, and others in the field of aging to discuss new findings and solutions for improving aging. The Diverse Elders Coalition was excited to participate in this year’s conference for several reasons: we were able to support our friends at the Journalists in Aging fellowship, we shared new research on family caregiving in diverse communities, and we had an exhibitor’s booth from which we disseminated reports, brochures, and other publications from the DEC and its members.

Jenna and Ocean staffing the Diverse Elders Coalition’s exhibitors’ booth at GSA 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jenna McDavid)

The week began with a Journalists in Aging pre-conference workshop on Wednesday, during which Jenna introduced the workshop plenary session featuring Dr. Keith Whitfield, Provost of Wayne State University in Detroit and an accomplished researcher on African American aging. It was really exciting to see so many of the GSA Journalists in Aging fellows in the room – many of whom have had their articles shared on the DEC blog. Following the plenary session, Jenna joined Next Avenue’s Richard Eisenberg to brainstorm their pitches for the upcoming year – and we’ll be excited to showcase their pieces on this blog when they are published!

The DEC’s exhibitors’ booth at GSA 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jenna McDavid)

On Thursday, the conference kicked off in the morning with opening sessions and workshops. Jenna and Ocean staffed the DEC’s exhibitor’s booth in the massive exhibit hall at the Austin Convention Center. This was Ocean’s first time at GSA, and he was excited to so so much appreciation of the work that the Diverse Elders Coalition is doing to support diverse older adults and family caregivers. DEC staff also had the opportunity to connect with people who have been pivotal in the work of the DEC’s caregiving initiative, such as Rani Snyder and Marcus Escobedo of The John A. Hartford Foundation, Dr. David Bass, Senior Vice President at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, and Linda and Bob Harootyan. These incredible people have invested so much time and work into the DEC caregiving initiative, being able to meet and thank them in person was definitely a high note. For Ocean, GSA provided an inspiring opportunity to connect with so many people who are passionate about helping the DEC’s communities. It was truly humbling to talk to the GSA participants and to learn about the different programs and research that are currently being developed for older adults and family caregivers!

We were also so glad to be joined by two local SAGE volunteers, Richard Bondi and World Famous *BOB* of the Austin LGBT Elder Task Force. Richard and *BOB* brought energy, flare, and so much love to our exhibitor’s booth – we know that GSA participants were excited to meet them and learn more about local efforts to support LGBT older adults.

L to R: World Famous *BOB*, Jenna McDavid, and Richard Bondi working the DEC’s exhibitors’ booth at GSA 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jenna McDavid)

Finally, at the end of the week, we were excited to share some new results of our family caregiving research during two poster presentations on Saturday. In partnership with the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging and funded by The John A. Hartford Foundation, the Diverse Elders Coalition recently wrapped up a series of nationwide surveys and focus groups for family caregivers in diverse communities. At GSA, we presented two of the key findings that we have uncovered from the survey so far: the challenges faced by family caregivers who are performing cultural tasks for their care recipients, such as translating healthcare materials from English into other languages or navigating the immigration system, and the differences between family caregivers from diverse communities who immigrated to the U.S. and those who were born here.

For PDF versions of our poster presentations, please click here:

This research is particularly exciting because these types of questions are rarely asked on aging and caregiving surveys; thanks to the input from the Diverse Elders Coalition members and partners, we were able to get to the heart of experiences that are unique to those providing care in our communities. These experiences need more study, of course, but that’s why we were at GSA: to encourage and inspire the talented researchers in attendance to learn more about caregivers in communities of color, LGBT communities, and American Indian/Alaska Native communities.

Our week at GSA was a wonderful experience and one that we look forward to again in 2020!

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.