Evacuation of elders during disasters to be addressed at GSA's upcoming annual meeting

November 03, 2005

To outline how the government, communities, and families can respond more effectively to the needs of the elderly in times of natural disaster, a panel of experts has been assembled for the closing session of the fast-approaching 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA). This team will use the context of the recent hurricanes in the Southeastern United States to discuss what went wrong, what could have been done differently, and what the implications are for research studies and policy formation.

GSA President Charles F. Longino, Jr. and AARP Office of Academic Affairs Director H.R. Moody are going to be joined by three individuals who have worked first-hand in these types of crisis situations. Charles Cefalu, Director of the Gerontology Program at Louisiana State University and President of the Louisiana Geriatrics Society, will speak from personal experience about Katrina and the pros and cons of evacuating the elderly, particularly those in long-term care settings. Barbara Newhouse, Vice President of Chapter Relations for the Alzheimer's Association, was assigned to Louisiana after Katrina and will report on the circumstances they found and the actions the Louisiana chapter took. She will also offer insights into future disaster preparedness measures for families of people with dementia, for facilities, and for first responders. E. Bentley Lipscomb, AARP Director for the State of Florida, will share the strategies developed by Florida after Hurricane Andrew, when he was Secretary of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. He will also speak to refinements being proposed in response to his experience with Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Katrina and Wilma.

This discussion (scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, November 22nd) takes place on the conference's final day, which will be free and open to the public. (Members of the media may attend any day at no charge.) Below is a highlights list of other groundbreaking sessions occurring over the course of the meeting.

The Ollie Randall Symposium:
Under the title "Measuring on the Residential Care/Assisted Living Population: Recent Federal Efforts," this symposium reports findings from recent federal efforts to measure at the national level the population that resides in residential care/assisted living (RC/AL). The presentations by a multidisciplinary group of economists, statisticians, nurses, health services researchers, demographers, and providers, will focus first on current estimates of the RC/AL population. The discussion is to continue with a focus on planned future survey efforts by the federal government and will include a survey overview and domains, and discussion of survey design and data collection methodological difficulties. The symposium will conclude with a floor discussion about future federal activities to enhance measurement on the RC/AL population in light of these presentations.
Sunday, November 20 at 1:45 p.m.

The Capitol Hill Experience - Learning Public Policy From the Inside Out:
Aging and health policy play an essential role in research, practice, and education. The John Heinz Senate Fellowship was created in memory of the late United States Senator John Heinz who spent much of his congressional career as an outspoken advocate for the rights of older Americans. This session will be presented by Heinz Fellows and former Heinz staff members from a variety of different disciplines to increase understanding of the role of policy in both aging research and practice, and to help aging professionals understand how to translate research, evidence, and best practices into sound aging policy.
Monday, November 21 at 3:15 p.m.

What's the Latest on Social Security Reform?:
Social Security reform is a top item on President Bush's policy agenda. At the beginning of his second term, his Administration launched the "60 Stops in 60 Days" tour to promote his vision for a stronger Social Security system that includes personal accounts financed by revenues drawn from the traditional revenue base for Social Security. This has sparked a major debate about the future of Social Security. This symposium, organized by GSA's Public Policy Committee, will explore potential benefits and limitations of partial privatization as a strategy for Social Security reform.
Saturday, November 19 at 10:30 a.m.

Women and Obesity: Disturbing Trends:
Obesity-related conditions which uniquely or mostly affect women include arthritis, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gall bladder disease. This panel explores the implications of rising obesity in the elderly and, in particular, elderly women. Panelists will examine the social, medical, and biological origins and implications of this trend. Session sponsored by the GSA Task Force on Women.
Monday, November 21 at 3:15 p.m.

Civic Engagement in an Older America:
In 2004, GSA launched the "Civic Engagement in an Older America" project, a five-year initiative funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. One of the project's first activities was a series of forums and focus groups on civic engagement held in four cities across the country earlier this year, in conjunction with the upcoming 2005 White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA). Based on input from these events, a set of policy recommendations were submitted to the WHCoA. This symposium will explore potential policy options, including GSA's recommendations, with a panel of individuals including members of GSA's Civic Engagement project, representatives from other civic engagement initiatives, a former director of a national service program, and a WHCoA Policy Committee member.
Sunday, November 20 at 3:30 p.m.

Why Seniors Are Turning to Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies:
Americans of all ages are turning to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies for a variety of reasons: dissatisfaction with standard medical care, to improve quality-of-life, alleviate chronic pain, and promote general health and longevity. With increased use, further knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks of CAM therapies is becoming crucial. While the field is relatively new and few techniques have been subjected to rigorous studies, there is a growing body of information about CAM utilization and specific applications and techniques. This symposium will provide a brief review of the literature on CAM use in the elderly population and will use a multidisciplinary panel of experts in several CAM modalities to discuss the use and reported benefits of CAM.
Saturday, November 19 at 1:30 p.m.

Transportation Policy for an Aging Society:
Transportation and aging advocates had their concerns heard at three officially designated listening sessions and solutions forums from January through April, 2005 in preparation for the White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA). Policy recommendations were made representing the whole continuum of community mobility from the screening and assessment of critical skills for driving to supplemental transportation programs for elders. Which of the recommendations ultimately made it to the WHCoA delegates? Moreover, which issues were not heard and what work remains for advocates, policy decision-makers, and consumers?
Monday, November 21 at 1:30 p.m.

A Major Trial of Exercise to Prevent Disability: The LIFE Study:
As life expectancy increases, prevention of disability has emerged as a major clinical and public health priority. A critical factor in an older person's ability to function independently is mobility, the ability to move about without assistance. Older people who lose mobility are less likely to remain in the community, have higher rates of morbidity and mortality, have more hospitalizations, and experience a poorer quality of life.
Saturday, November 19 at 3:30 p.m.

Health Status And Disparities In Late Life: Junior Scholars Paving the Way in Minority Aging Research:
The Minority Task Force of the Gerontological Society of America will present a symposium that addresses some of the many physical and mental health issues that confront the nation's aging minority population. The panel will consist of talented junior scholars in the field of gerontology who are committed to understanding and identifying some of the biological and psychosocial issues plaguing our diverse aging population. They will focus on factors that are important for our understanding of adult development, aging, and disparities in late life.
Saturday, November 19 at 1:30 p.m.
The sessions listed above are just a sampling of what to expect at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America, the oldest and largest national multidisciplinary scientific organization devoted to the advancement of gerontological research. Founded in 1945, its membership includes some 5,000+ researchers, educators, practitioners, and other professionals in the field of aging. The Society's principal missions are to promote research and education in aging and to encourage the dissemination of research results to other scientists, decision makers, and practitioners.

The Gerontological Society of America

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