Feature article

President's message

Applying what we already know about aging to improve the lives of older adults and their families is critical.

By Harvey Sterns

We need to be able to apply what we already know.

The special issue “Aging in America: Perspectives From Psychological Science” (American Psychologist, May-June 2016) contains many important insights reflecting the current and emerging state of our field. It is a wonderful achievement, and we are indebted to the authors of this collection of papers originally developed for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging and then later refined.

It is my hope that this special issue will help to raise awareness throughout APA regarding the need for decisive action to improve services to adults and older adults but, even more importantly, provide all of us with greater insight into our own aging and how to reshape our approaches to gerontological psychology as we look to the future.

The need for more research and application dollars has been an ongoing issue, but what is even more critical is using what we already know to improve the lives of older adults and their families. For example, there are many older adults in long-term care who are experiencing what I call the “underwhelm” due to unstimulating environments and staff who do not have the skills to improve the situation. Yet we have approaches that are effective with individuals with cognitive changes to become engaged in activities leading to improvement in quality of life.

Another compelling topic is the reminder about how social expectations and stereotypes influence older adults' own expectations of aging and may limit life potential much later. Those of us who know about aging still have to be vigilant that we are not limiting our own actions by accepting conventional thinking in our professional and personal roles.

We will have an opportunity in Denver to explore many of these issues. One example of changing approaches will be our sessions on “Forty-Five Years of Influence of the Lifespan Developmental Approach.”Wally Boot and Kathryn Judge, program chairs, have put together an outstanding program for Div. 20 and have also created an unusual number of collaborative endeavors with many other divisions and the Committee on Aging. Please note that there will be a joint Div. 20 (Adult Development and Aging) and Div. 12 Section II (Clinical Geropsychology) dinner at Marlowe's, Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. Please send in your reservations.

As someone who has chosen to work longer, I appreciate the continuing support of my colleagues and the opportunities that my 45 years at the University of Akron has afforded me. This year we also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology and my role as founding director, organized by Jennifer Stanley and Phil Allen and our graduate students. I also appreciate the support I receive at the local, state, national and international levels that allows me to continue to have an active and continuing professional life. I plan to contribute for many more years. At the same time, I continue to enjoy my roles as husband, father and grandfather and greatly value my multigenerational friendships.

It has been a real honor to serve as president of Div. 20 for a second term. We have had great collaboration on Div. 20 leadership—Sara Czaja as past president and Manfred Diehl as president-elect have been great colleagues with which to share issues. I wish Manfred the best in his new role. Joe Gaugler deserves special praise for accepting an extra year as treasurer. Joann Montepare has been most attentive to division needs and extremely helpful in every way. Grace Caskie continues as our newsletter editor and deserves high praise, indeed. All of our officers and committee chairs and Members and other volunteers have been supportive of division activities, and I want to thank all of them on behalf of the division. Hope to see you in Denver.