Aging in America: The American Society on Aging’s Annual Conference

From March 28th – April 1, over 3,000 attendees and presenters swarmed Washington DC’s Marriott Wardman Park and Omni Shoreham hotels for Aging in America, the 2012 annual conference of the American Society on Aging (ASA). With hot-button issues like the future of the Affordable Care Act and key entitlement programs on the table and the decision to hold this (election) year’s conference in our nation’s capital, it was not at all surprising that health policy and advocacy issues were a primary focus for many in attendance (panelists for one general session, “The 2012 Political Landscape and Older Adults,” included Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee, House Democratic Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz). Other critical themes throughout the conference included hunger and malnutrition among older Americans and formal and informal caregivers and the future of caregiving.

As with many large professional conferences, the catalog was filled with many more engaging session blurbs than anyone could possibly explore. Even when focusing on presentations that were particularly relevant to the central themes in our project, we were, at times, forced to choose between multiple appealing options.  So here, rather than giving a comprehensive run-down of everything we attended or wish we had attended, we offer some links that can connect you with some of the presenters, organizations, and resources we think you might find most relevant, useful, and engaging, with apologies to the many amazing presenters we missed:

  • Central theme #2: Older Adults and Sexual Health: Researcher (and Graying advisory panel member) Mark Brennan-Ing of ACRIA joined Britta Larson from Center on Halsted and Jennifer Makelarski from the University of Chicago to present “Sexual Activity and Health Among Older LGBT Adults.”  You can download a related webinar Brennan-Ing presented on behalf of the New York State Office for the Aging, the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute, and ACRIA that is available to all online, “Older Adults, Sexual Health, and HIV/AIDS.” While at the conference we also heard from representatives from Widener University’s Sexuality and Aging Consortium, whose resources and on-line bibliography might be of interest.
  • Central theme #3: LGBT Aging:  Loree Cook-Daniels from FORGE Transgender Aging Network, Karen Fredricksen-Goldsen from the University of Washington, Lisa Krinsky from LGBT Aging Project, and Serena Worthington from SAGE came together to present “The Health Report: Resilience and Disparities Among LGBT Older Adults and Caregivers.” In addition to the information you can find through all of these organizations’ websites, you might want to check out Caring and Aging with Pride by Fredricksen-Goldsen. Cook-Daniels and Fredriksen-Goldsen later teamed up with Harper Jean Tobin from the National Center for Transgender Equality to speak on “Transgender Aging: Results of the Latest Studies,” and Tobin blogged about her experience following trans issues at the conference. During the meeting we also connected with Tarynn M. Witten of Virginia Commonwealth University, who has worked extensively in this area. At a time when more and more organizations are recognizing the need to be more inclusive and sensitive to the needs of transgender clients, it was refreshing to have so many committed researchers and providers on hand to offer much needed insight and guidance.
  • Central theme #4: How the Arts Can Affect How We Think About Aging: Martin Iguchi from Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies stepped in on behalf of an ailling Joan Jeffri of The National Center for Creative Aging to introduce attendees to Still Kicking, a 2011 study of professional performing artists aged 62+ living in New York and Los Angeles.  This study draws from both qualitative and quantitative data to explore what these extraordinarily resilient older adults might be able to teach us about how to support healthy aging in the future. In our ARTAHA blog, we explore individual pieces or bodies of creative work that have had an impact on how people think about aging, AIDS, or both; this “body of work” is a reflection on 270 lives lived creatively, and they will almost certainly affect the way you think about aging ( “It’s the jumping that’s hard. I can still kick.” – 68 year-old former Rockette dancer, NYC).