Alliance for Aging Connects Local Individuals and Organizations that Provide Services to Older Adults, Promotes Regional Collaboration

December 12, 2018

Irving Silverman, Dr. Erlene Rosowsky, and Dr. Aladdin Ossorio.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the year 2030 marks an important demographic turning point in U.S. history – that’s the year when all baby boomers will be age 65 or older, making 1 in every 5 U.S. residents of retirement age. It’s important, says Dr. Erlene Rosowsky, for people to have the resources they need to “not just survive, but thrive as they age.”

Dr. Rosowsky, an internationally recognized leader in research and academics who has dedicated her career to clinical geropsychology, is the founding director and coordinator of the William James College Alliance for Aging.

“Over the years we’ve realized that it makes a lot of difference when people understand, deeply, the culture that they’re treating,” said Dr. Nicholas Covino, president of William James College, addressing attendees at a recent meeting of the Alliance. “Not all of us are in the same space at the same time. This program helps our students understand that it’s really important that we understand that folks that we meet, the folks that we sit with, need a special attunement to the spaces they’re in. This program does that.”

Rosowsky, along with colleagues Dr. Aladdin Ossorio and Dr. Katherine King, hosted a meeting this month which brought together thought leaders and representatives from organizations that provide services to older adults.

Ossorio, founder of our SageMind program and former member of the faculty, told attendees, “As psychologists, our primary focus is behavioral health, but behavioral health is not just in your head, it’s embedded in things like families, communities, financial, and housing status. Behavioral health is central to flourishing across contexts.” He and King facilitated an exercise for the group which helped identify and outline assets at the College and within the region.

The Alliance, as the name suggests, seeks to create connections and help frame points of collaboration. Among the College’s resources named in the exercise, were the College’s recent designation as an Age-Friendly University, the work of the student-led Geriatric Volunteer Corps, and discussion of our Geropsychology concentration in our clinical psychology PsyD program.

Geropsychology is an APA-recognized specialty area that focuses on the mental health, mental illness, assessment and treatment of older adults. Geropsychologists study the behavioral, medical, social, and environmental factors that inform people’s lives as they age. William James College has one of only a limited number of formal Geropsychology concentration programs in the country and is one of only two PsyD programs in the country to offer a Geropsychology concentration.

"William James College understands that older individuals are an underserved segment of our society. Promoting mental health requires that we stop thinking only in terms of pathology. We’re not sick," said Irving Silverman, 97-year-old optimist, advocate, and philanthropist in a 2016 interview. Mr. Silverman and his daughter, William James alumna, Ellen Beth Siegel, PsyD, were among the attendees at the meeting. The pair recently published a compendium of essays on topics exploring “how we age.” The book, “Aging Wisely … Wisdom of Our Elders,” features essays by more than 75 seniors and experts in aging, including several authors from the William James College Community. 

The Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network designation placed William James College in good company among 36 other member institutions worldwide with a shared challenge to promote an inclusive approach to healthy and active aging through “research, enhanced learning opportunities, and innovations that address specific issues affecting older adults.” AFU principles reflect the work of an international, interdisciplinary team convened by Brían MacCraith, President, Dublin City University.

“William James College’s expertise in the area of geropsychology clinical research and the establishment of the [William James College] Alliance for Aging will bring an added richness to the Age-Friendly University Global Network,” MacCraith said in a letter announcing the designation.

The Alliance for Aging is part of the Department of Community Engagement at William James College. The Alliance was formally placed within the Department this fall, a move intended to make the Department of Community Engagement a "life span development" department and to generate further internal synergies and external collaborations.

The Department of Community Engagement is also home to the Dr. Leon O. Brenner Center for Psychological Assessment and Consultation, the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law, the Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development, the Juvenile Court Clinics, and the PATHWAYS Program.

Related: Watch the Aging Wisely Video Series, a panel discussion featuring Irving Silverman,  Ellen Beth Siegel, Aladdin Ossorio, and Steven Caldwell, plus bonus features.