EDITOR'S MESSAGE: Editorial
I had the opportunity to attend the 64th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in Boston in November 2011 and was very pleased to see so many colleagues from physical therapy contributing in symposia, research presentations, and very active poster sessions. It is truly an exciting time to be engaged in the care of older adults!
The choice of programming at the GSA is much like that of our own CSM and PT Annual Meetings; too many options to choose from for the available time! One of the more provocative sessions I was able to attend was the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education Presidential Symposium, which challenged us to reflect and refresh our view and expectations about growing old. The symposium abstract stated,
the ways in which societies view the biological, psychological and social processes of aging shape the creation and maintenance of community values, social structures and the role and care of elders in those societies. The presence and resilience of such values, social structures, roles and approaches to care, in turn, reinforce societal views of aging in a never ending feedback loop, a cycle that determines the lifestyles and lifespan of older adults by shaping their life course.
A panel drawn from the fields of bioethics, anthropology, biomedical science, and cognitive science/dementia care shared its perspectives on the factors that contribute to societal and individual views of growing older. Dr Harry Moody began by commenting on the uncertainty of our economic and physical worlds, referring us to the key questions posed by Kant in his 10th decade as a way to sort through changeable times: What do I know? What should I do? What can I hope? Dr Caleb Finch called educators in the field of “aging” to consider the impact of environmental changes (pollution, global warming) on health risks, morbidity, and mortality, as well as on quality of life. Dr Jennie Keith, an anthropologist, questioned why we still see older adults as “other,” different from ourselves. She challenges us to find a way to create a sense of continuum of life span in the students and young professionals entering health care and other fields serving older adults. Finally, Murna Downs prompted us to reevaluate how we interact with aging adults who have cognitive dysfunction: challenging us to affirm and value humanity of the individual rather than naming him or her as a “hopeless patient” for whom little can be done. She encourages us to engage those living with dementia in educating us about their experience and needs (ie, reimaging life with dementia) and supporting the development of dementia-friendly communities.
We should celebrate the accomplishments of our colleagues from the Section on Geriatrics, Dr Alan Jette, PT, PhD, who received the very first Excellence in Rehabilitation of Aging Persons Award from the Health Sciences Section of the GSA. Congratulations Dr Jette!
In addition to sharing your clinical and research efforts at American Physical Therapy Association's CSM and PT 2012, please consider joining physical therapy colleagues at the 65th Annual Scientific Meeting of the GSA: Charting New Frontiers in Aging, San Diego, California, November 14–18, 2012. Abstracts can be submitted at www.geron.org from December until mid-March.