Fall is underway, and if it is anything like the past six months, it will most likely be a season like no other. I think we can all agree that the past few months have brought about a lot of big and small changes that have altered many aspects of our daily lives. Although many of these changes have been unwelcomed and highly disruptive, a silver lining is that some positive changes to how psychologists function in a range of work settings are quickly becoming commonplace.
For example, the widespread use of telehealth practices has increased our reach to patients who may not have been able to previously receive treatment because of transportation difficulties or health issues. Maintaining quality care and remaining connected to our patients via telehealth during COVID-19 is no small feat. Collectively, we demonstrated that telehealth can be widely used with older adults to achieve good outcomes. Likewise, teachers have also had to resort to using Zoom and similar online platforms to teach their courses and lead their research labs. Some of the problems that were thrust upon us and required solutions that we had to quickly enact will benefit us, our students and trainees, and the patients we treat for the foreseeable future.
During these past few months, the evolving needs of older adults and the demands for a well-trained workforce have never been more evident. I believe that psychologists in general and Div. 20 members in particular are well suited to play key roles going forward. Geropsychologists should be actively contributing to policy discussions about COVID-19, climate change, racial inequality, and ageism. By serving as leaders and advocates with expertise in adult development and aging, we are well-positioned to address issues of age inclusivity in our roles as clinicians, educators, advocates, and researchers. Geropsychologists can help train the workforce to be better equipped for the growing needs of an aging population in a rapidly changing landscape.
My plan is to build upon the foundation that our phase accomplished in the past and all the opportunities we have going forward.
I recently read the history of Div. 20 that was initially developed under the leadership of Susan Whitbourne and, in more recent years, updated by Michael Marsiske. You may not know that Div. 20 was formed in 1945 at the end of WWII. The minutes of the Special Meeting held by APA in Columbus, Ohio, reads:
The secretary presented a petition for a committee by Sidney Pressey, and signed by 159 psychologists, to establish a Division of the Psychology of Adulthood and Old Age. After a discussion of the possibility of combining such a division with the present division on Childhood and Adolescence, it was voted 20 to 3 to establish [a division of adulthood and old age].
In 1946, 13 psychologists attended the first Div. 20 meeting. Today, our membership exceeds 600 members and has more than 200 student members. I encourage you to read about Div. 20’s history because it is often useful to know where we have been in order to plan where we might go in the next 75 years.
Although we need to physically distance, we also need to remain socially and professionally connected. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, my enthusiasm for the coming year is undiminished because we have a creative, motivated, and committed Executive Committee and membership. I want to thank my colleagues who have graciously agreed to serve on the Executive Committee in leadership roles.
For the coming year, in addition to celebrating our Division’s 75th anniversary, I have two primary presidential initiatives that I plan to launch with Div. 20 President-elect Joann Montepare: Advancing Age Inclusivity in Psychology and Age-Friendly University (AFU) efforts. Our plan is to build on these multi-year initiatives to capitalize and amplify the impact of each of these endeavors. We want to collaborate more broadly and strategically with other organizations, like the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), that are striving to accomplish similar goals. To learn more about the Advancing Age Inclusivity in Psychology initiative, please read Joann’s article in this newsletter. On a personal note, I am proud to share that my university became an Age-Friendly University earlier this year. I will be sharing more about the age-friendly activities my university has been engaged in during the COVID-19 pandemic in a future newsletter column – and I hope others who are also AFU partners will share their institutional stories.
A good example of a successful collaboration between divisions and other aging organizations is the recent CONA conversation hour, “Reframing Aging”, that was held during the APA convention. This well attended event was spearheaded by Bill Haley (CONA) and featured James Appleby (CEO, GSA), Jennifer Margrett (Div. 20), and Brian Carpenter (Div. 12, Section II). The excellent presentations and discussions led by division members were also lively and engaging. Jennifer’s creative presidential address, featuring Div. 20 members describing their experiences as division members and advocating for inclusion of a lifespan perspective more broadly in psychology, set the stage for Div. 20 initiatives that are being planned for the upcoming year.
Finally, it is a major accomplishment that the Resolution on Ageism developed by CONA was adopted by the APA Council. During the coming year, Div. 20 should capitalize on these successes and collaboratively continue to build on this momentum. I look forward to working with the Div. 20 members at all stages in their careers to advance age inclusivity in psychology.