In This Issue
By Sara Czaja
The aging of the population, especially the increase in the “oldest old”, presents numerous challenges as well as opportunities for researchers, practitioners, and society as a whole. Current population trends are transforming society in fundamental ways and have profound consequences for a broad range of economic, social and political processes. Although the study of adult development and aging has matured and our knowledge of the aging process and its implications has vastly expanded, there remains a multitude of issues that need to be addressed by our membership.
These issues include the increasing diversity of the older population, the increase in the number of older adults with cognitive impairments, the continuing challenges faced by family caregivers, the emphasis on patient centered care and changes in the healthcare delivery system. Family structures are also changing - leaving older adults with fewer options for care. Other issues include the paucity of knowledge regarding older adults and persistent mental illness and the needs of LGBT older people. Although these challenges may seem daunting, they also provide tremendous and interesting opportunities for those working in the field of aging.
APA and Div. 20 should play a key role in meeting these challenges and opportunities and continue to promote the value of behavioral and psychological science and practice in meeting the needs of an aging society. Our members have vast expertise and experience and have a great deal to offer to improve the quality of life for current and future generations of older adults. To channel this expertise, we must continue to grow as a division and enhance our visibility within APA and other professional organizations.
In this regard, we must continue to increase our membership and our outreach efforts to attract students and early career psychologists to become members of Div. 20. Encouraging students to join Div. 20 is vital to our survival and our mission. Students need to become aware of the value of becoming involved in the division's activities. As members, we also need to become actively engaged in the division and participate in meetings, social events, mentoring opportunities, elections, and be willing to take on leadership roles. There are also various opportunities to honor the achievements of our colleagues through the various award mechanisms available within the division. Although we made great strides during the past year we still face challenges with respect to membership and active involvement of members in division activities. For example, it was difficult to identify members who were willing to run for office in the division. As noted by Bill Haley, a healthy division depends on the willingness of its members to assume leadership positions.
As members of Div. 20, we also need to boost our efforts to highlight the criticality of addressing the issues associated with the aging population to those in industry, government, and related fields. We must also continue to lobby for support for research that focuses on issues of aging as well as support to provide training in clinical practice specialties for older adults.
The needs of older adults, especially those who are “vulnerable”, are vast, especially within the healthcare arena. We must recognize that addressing the current challenges of our field requires outreach to other disciplines and specializations with psychology and related fields. The challenges associated with population aging are complex and require a broad multidisciplinary approach. Many of us are involved in other professional organizations, and we should use these opportunities to garnish support for and involvement of others in the field of aging.
Membership in Div. 20 provides many venues for members involved in aging research and practice to become involved in these efforts. For example, APA's Office on Aging provides numerous venues for commentary and support of major initiatives relevant to older adults and for advocating for the field of aging within APA and government agencies such as the NIH. There are also opportunities to participate in APA task forces to help ensure that aging issues are represented.
In addition, we can interact with other divisions within APA and other professional organizations to encourage other psychologists and professionals to participate in efforts directed towards supporting older adults. Membership within Div. 20 also affords opportunities to collaborate with a community of colleagues who share common goals and interests as well as opportunities for mentorship for those who are starting out in their career.
Throughout my professional career Div. 20, has always served as a home for me and afforded me many opportunities to become involved with others working in the field of aging and has been a great force with respect to fostering connections and friendships.
I'm honored and energized to serve as president of the division at this exciting and challenging time in our field. I look forward to working with all of you to make Div. 20 a vibrant and thriving organization. I also look to you for suggestions and comments on ways to enhance our membership, opportunities for involvement, and the visibility of our division.