From the Editor: Research as an “Honest Examination”
September 17, 2018 | by Gene Mitchell
A preview of this issue of LeadingAge magazine.
A preview of this issue of LeadingAge magazine.
While putting together this issue, I interviewed Len Fishman for the Vision column, “Research Must Be a Priority for Aging Services.” I loved a remark he made: “Part of what research is about is trying to strip away the things that get in the way of honest examination, assessment and improvement. That’s a really healthy thing for human beings to do.”
Fishman has been a proponent of research for a long time. He is the director of the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. He has also been the CEO of a LeadingAge member, Hebrew SeniorLife, which has its own research institute, and he led LeadingAge itself (he was president and CEO from 1998-2000) when its research institute was created.
His remark distilled what we should never forget. Research is certainly about its familiar components: data and sample sizes and number-crunching and journal articles and grant procurement. But in essence, it is about getting as close as we can to the unvarnished truth of things: Do our efforts make a difference? Do our innovations work or fail? Does our theory about why X does Y really hold up?
This issue is about that quest for unvarnished reality. You’ll read about research that LeadingAge and other entities within the aging services field have done, and to what result. You’ll read about the experience of providers who participate in research, and what older adults think we ought to be studying, and you might even be inspired to participate in research as well.
Our first feature examines what we mean when we talk about “evidence-based” practices, and includes the thoughts of a group of professional researchers with long experience in our field. What constitutes good research? How can we make research-tested practices work in our unique environment? Read “Evidence-Based Practices: How to Find Them, Choose Them and Use Them.”
“Housing Plus Services Research: A Decade of Lessons in How to Influence Policy and Practice” is housing-focused, as the title suggests, but it also happens to be an interesting history of (some of) LeadingAge’s research efforts over the years, and how the things we’ve learned about services and senior housing may be changing the future of our field.
Participating in research projects offers great benefits for our members, despite requiring some commitments of time and resources. Read what a couple of LeadingAge members say about their experiences, along with thoughts from a couple of research pros. See “What Does Research Mean for Providers?”
One LeadingAge member with a commitment to research asked a simple question: What do older adults think we ought to study? It may be simple, but it is indispensable, and it isn’t asked often enough. The article, “Bureau of Sages: Can Older Adults’ Advice Lead to Better-Focused Research?, is the story of how that question led to formation of an advisory board of residents and clients that is opening researchers’ eyes.
The turn of the 21st century marked an important moment in the history of LeadingAge. The Institute for the Future of Aging Services was created then, giving LeadingAge a research arm for the first time. Some years later it changed its name to the LeadingAge Center for Applied Research, and it is now the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston. Read the aptly named article, “The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston: What You Need to Know,” to learn about why this latest change was made, the benefits of teaming up with UMass Boston, and what this means for research going forward.
To pair with the above discussion about the LTSS Center, we wanted to take a look at what the Boston half of the Center is up to. “Understanding the Economic Status of Older Americans” is a podcast interview of Marc Cohen, co-director of the LTSS Center, who tells us about an important study he’s doing on the economic standing of older Americans. It illuminates some important realities that will directly affect providers in our field.
As long as we’re looking at research involving university-provider partnerships … “The AgingWell Hub: a Collaboration to Benefit Older Adults and Their Caregivers” is a piece by Georgetown University’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative about its work with family caregivers, and about an innovative Caregiver Journey Map that the AgingWell Hub created.
If it’s our September-October issue, it must be time for announcing the LeadingAge awards for this year: Read “Presenting the 2018 LeadingAge National Award Winners” to learn more about the innovative providers we are honoring.
In the latest installment of our “This I Have Learned” series, member James Seagle talks about his experience with ageism, and why it is time to change.
Finally, “Celebrating the People We Serve” is another set of member-written stories about the generous and accomplished people they work for and with.
Gene Mitchell is editor of LeadingAge magazine.