The mission of APA, the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S., is to “promote the advancement, communication, and application of psychological science and knowledge to benefit society and improve lives.” To this end, APA strives to raise public awareness about how psychology can positively impact critical societal issues, along with preparing the discipline and profession for the future.
In light of historic demographic shifts in aging that are reshaping societies, a clear and present need exists for APA to hold true to its mission by bringing greater attention to the far-reaching implications of aging across the areas of psychological study. This need also calls for applying a lifespan developmental lens to education, research, and practice in psychology.
In short, APA needs to be more age-inclusive. Consider the fact that most undergraduate psychology students are rarely exposed to theory and research about aging issues in their core classes. Thus, most graduate with negligible awareness about aging in their study of psychology, entering their personal and professional worlds with a shocking lack of aging literacy. Additionally, challenges persist in growing and sustaining aging-focused training in graduate programs, resulting in a dire shortage of professionals with aging expertise to address the needs of individuals, families, and communities.
Div. 20 has the vision, expertise, and creative talent to rectify these shortcomings and advance age inclusivity in psychology. We can start by joining the voices in the Age-Friendly University (AFU) global initiative, which offers a guiding framework and 10 principles for how higher education can respond to aging populations. (Read about the AFU initiative established by Dublin City University and supported by the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) of the Gerontological Society of America and over 70 institutions across the globe). Forging strategic collaborations with other APA divisions to raise awareness and tackle challenges is another step we can take. Mounting practical tactics, such as developing resources that inform educators about ways to infuse a lifespan perspective, are also of value. Certainly, our continued support of APA’s Committee on Aging (CONA) is important to fostering an appreciation of the complexities of aging in psychology.
Whatever actions we take, now is the time to challenge and inspire APA to advance age inclusivity in psychology.
Joann Montepare, PhD, is a professor of psychology at Lasell University and the director of the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging and Intergenerational Studies. She is also president-elect of Div. 20.