Fellowship allows diverse reporters to cultivate public awareness of aging issues

October 12, 2010

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and New America Media (NAM) have selected 15 journalists for the new MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellows Program. They represent a wide range of traditional, new, and ethnic media, such as USA Today, Sing Tao Daily, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and TheAtlantic.com.

The fellows will convene during GSA's Annual Scientific Meeting -- scheduled for November 19 to 23 in New Orleans -- and tap into the conference's 500 presentations and 3,500 expert attendees to develop a major aging-focused story or series. Their proposed projects, to be published early in 2011, will focus on issues such as the struggles of grandparents raising grandchildren, innovations in elder-friendly housing for seniors, challenges for elderly immigrants in the U.S., retirement planning in the recession, seniors' use of new technology, and elders coping with the aftermath of multiple disasters on the Gulf Coast.

These journalists also will report on new research from the meeting and participate in a day-long pre-conference session, where GSA will showcase the latest developments in the field of aging and host discussions with veteran reporters on how to position stories in the current media environment.

"At a time when so much of America seems divided along generational, ethnic, and ideological lines, the stories of aging can bring us together with a new lifelong perspective," said Sandy Close, founder and executive editor of NAM. "Journalists need to tell stories that reveal how today's families depend on each other from their youngest to older members."

The fellowship program -- funded by a $75,000 grant from the MetLife Foundation -- comes just as the first of the 78 million baby boomers prepare to turn age 65 on January 1, 2011. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation's older population will almost double to 70 million by 2030. Also, the proportion of ethnic elders will double to 40 percent of America's population aged 65 and over by 2050.

"The tremendous volume of quality research at our conference can help journalists get ahead of the information curve on any trend in aging," said GSA Deputy Executive Director Linda Harootyan, MSW. "This fellowship will enable participating news organizations -- despite severe newsroom budget cuts for many -- to bring their audiences cutting-edge findings by the top experts on this vital subject area."

Harootyan will co-direct the project with Paul Kleyman, the senior editor of NAM's ethnic elders newsbeat. Kleyman is also founder and national coordinator of the Journalists Network on Generations, which includes more than 1,000 writers on aging.

The 2010 fellows:

Sally Abrahms, a freelance writer working with AARP Bulletin, will open the doors on innovative housing options for seniors in three articles on intergenerational co-housing; small, residential "Green Houses" aimed at radically transforming institutional care for frail elders; and innovative intergenerational nursing homes.

Jane Adler, a freelance writer working with the Chicago Tribune, will explore how age-friendly communities can combat loneliness and depression in our aging nation as long-time friends leave the neighborhood or die, adult children move far away, and frailty takes its physical toll on one's mobility.

April Dembosky, an independent journalist working with the San Jose Mercury News, will explore intergenerational issues in the hospice and palliative care field. The recognition of palliative care as a medical specialty in 2008 has spurred growth of this field in hospitals and medical schools -- but it also has resulted in a generational gap between the new and young crop of end-of-life care doctors and their patients.

Adolfo Flores, an editor and reporter for El Nuevo Sol in Los Angeles, CA, and the Pasadena Star-News will focus on grandparents raising or helping to raise their grandchildren. In four articles with multimedia components, he will examine how grandparents often ease the struggle of Latino parents in trying to raise children, the lack of programs and outreach to communities of color, health issues that grandparents face in parenting, and the quality of education that grandparents are helping these children receive.

Shaleece Haas, a freelance journalist working with KCAW-Raven Radio in Sitka, AK, will develop a three-part series for statewide public radio to examine how native Alaskan and other seniors are accessing -- or failing to access -- the services they need. Installments will provide an overview of elders' needs, explore how community services in small Alaska towns and villages help fill the gap and provide elder caring for their elderly, and show how caregivers are helping their aging parents, often from a distance.

Christina Hernandez, a freelance journalist working with the Philadelphia Inquirer, will expose the hidden epidemic of falls affecting elders in the largely African American and Latino community of Camden, NJ. Preventable falls are a major concern in our aging society and lead to major injuries, brain trauma, and death. But their effects also may be compounded by limited access to care that plagues many low-income communities. Hernandez will write a major article or series with multimedia components.

Janice N. Lloyd, a senior reporter and blogger for USA Today, will center on how exercise can enhance the quality of life of aging baby boomers in their homes, in 55-plus communities, and in assisted living facilities. How, if at all, do new technologies (apps, nikeplus gadgets for nanos, pedometers) help? And what are the benefits of exercise approaches, such as running marathons, walking daily, playing tennis, or focusing on balance and posture through Pilates, tai chi, or yoga? Written pieces also will include a video component.

Katrina L. Rogers, a news reporter for the New Orleans Agenda, will write a series of up to five articles with video delving into the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster on the lives of elders on the Gulf Coast. The series will examine the effects on seniors from the urban neighborhoods of New Orleans to African American fishing communities and how their families are overlooked and silenced by the mainstream media.

Nayita Wilson, a contributing writer for The Louisiana Weekly in New Orleans, will write "Wise Investments," a series on the challenges African Americans face in saving for and financing their years. In two articles, she will explore how well-off boomers are financially as they transition into the next phase of life, what economic racial differences or disparities may be at work for older African Americans, and how effective financial planning and pre-retirement investments are for them.

Warren Wolfe, a staff writer for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, MN, will examine the shortage of trained geriatric workers in every health profession -- from nursing aides to physicians. America currently has one certified geriatrician for every 2,500 older Americans. Wolfe plans to address the problems of this imbalance and detail the policy choices that will help determine who will care for the aged.

Rong Xiaoqing, a reporter for Sing Tao Daily in New York, NY, will explore how the dramatic increase of interracial marriages among young Asians in recent years affects the lives of their aging parents. Asian seniors often find traditions and family obligations to care for them upended when a white husband or Hispanic wife enters the family.

Mohammed Yussuf, the editor-in-chief for Runta (Truth) in Seattle, WA, proposed three stories to be disseminated to the Somali community about depression and isolation among those ages 60 and older. The multimedia packages will include video and photos. The articles will reveal strategies and resources for coping with depression and strengthening support networks within Somali families and communities.

Aylin Zafar, a freelance journalist working with TheAtlantic.com's Technology Channel, will plug into the brave new world of social media for seniors -- from Facebook to Skype -- and investigate how this new technology is impacting their quality of life and mental health. Her stories will show how these tools are affecting seniors' mental health status, particularly among those who have had depression, anxiety, or even dementia.

Mei Zhou and Ke Yuan, producers for the "Zooming In" documentary series at New Tang Dynasty Television's Los Angeles Bureau and contributors for the Epoch Times in El Monte, CA, will focus on helping Chinese seniors -- many of whom are new immigrants -- navigate the U.S. healthcare system and communicate with their health care providers. Rather than center on eldercare as a problem, they will describe how culturally specific approaches to health and health practices could benefit American care.
The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society -- and its 5,200+ members -- is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA's structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

New America Media (NAM) is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate for over 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Nearly 60 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries, and to America through ethnic media, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, NAM is headquartered in California with editors in New York and Washington, DC.

The MetLife Foundation, the funder for this project, was created in 1976 by MetLife to continue its longstanding tradition of contributions and community involvement. Its goal is to empower people to lead healthy, productive lives and strengthen communities. The foundation typically makes grants related to the areas of health, education, civic affairs, and culture.

The Gerontological Society of America

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