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Exploring the Cutting-Edge Discussions at On Aging 2024 Conference

On Aging 2024, the nation’s premier multidisciplinary conference on aging, recently convened in San Francisco, California, from March 25th to March 28th. Hosted by the American Society on Aging, this annual gathering attracted thousands of professionals, gerontologists, and thought leaders from diverse fields, all united in their commitment to driving innovative solutions in aging. As a graduate student of Gerontology at San Francisco State University, I had the opportunity to attend and volunteer at the On Aging 2024 Conference where I gained valuable insights from various sessions focused on aging-related issues. These sessions provided profound reflections on key topics, offering actionable strategies and emphasizing the importance of collaboration and evidence-based practices in addressing challenges faced by older adults. 


The conference kicked off with a thought-provoking Opening Keynote titled Future Proof: Longevity and Our Working Lives, presented by the AARP Foundation. Attendees were invited to delve into discussions surrounding the intersection of longevity and the evolving landscape of work. 


One standout session, Our Age-Tech Future, hosted by Uber, explored the burgeoning field of age-friendly technology. With the aging population on the rise, innovative solutions are crucial for addressing the unique needs of older adults in an increasingly digital world. 


Another highlight was the session on Innovation in Industry and Advocacy: A Collaborative Effort, led by PhRMA. This session underscored the importance of collaboration between industry and advocacy groups in driving meaningful change for older adults. 


Addressing critical health concerns, The Duality of Aging with HIV session, presented by Gilead, shed light on the structural and policy barriers faced by older individuals living with HIV. The session aimed to foster greater understanding and support for this vulnerable population. 


The conference concluded with a powerful Closing Keynote, Building a National Movement for All Americans to Age with Health, Dignity, and Connection, jointly presented by West Health and The John A. Hartford Foundation. This session emphasized the importance of creating age-friendly communities and highlighted the positive aspects of aging through Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better with Age, keynote with Chip Conley. 


In addition to these general sessions, On Aging 2024 featured a diverse array of workshops and panels addressing various aspects of aging and gerontology. From tackling the direct care workforce crisis to exploring the role of gerontologists in enhancing organizational effectiveness, attendees had the opportunity to engage with cutting-edge research and practical strategies for promoting successful aging. 



The session on "Age-Friendly Communities Through an Intergenerational Lens" led by Erin Maruzzella, Executive Director of Innovations in Aging Collaborative, and Rachel Cohen, Founder and CEO of Aging Dynamics, highlighted the transformative impact of intergenerational connections in fostering inclusive communities. Through real-world case studies and research-backed insights, attendees explored how such connections enhance residents' sense of belonging, purpose, and well-being across all age groups. The session emphasized the need for creating age-friendly environments that prioritize meaningful interactions between generations, ultimately contributing to the overall health and vitality of communities.


Another session focused on "Overcoming the Direct Care Workforce Crisis," led by Bianca Frogner, Professor at the University of Washington, Deborah Schwartz, Director of Workforce Equity and Innovation at H-CAP, Kezia Scales, Vice President of Research & Evaluation at PHI, and Susan Chapman, Professor at the University of California - San Francisco. The speakers provided invaluable insights into one of the most pressing challenges in the field. They emphasized the critical role of evidence-based solutions in strengthening the direct care workforce, highlighting the urgency of implementing interventions to improve recruitment, retention, and overall workforce satisfaction. Additionally, the session underscored the importance of policy developments and innovation in addressing systemic barriers and enhancing support for direct care workers.


The session on "The Role of Gerontologists in Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness" shed light on the unique contributions that gerontologists can make to businesses catering to older consumers. Led by Christi Vrban and Susanna Smith, Corporate Gerontologists at The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence, and Rodnee Warr, Business Execution Manager at Wells Fargo, the session emphasized the importance of integrating gerontological expertise into business strategy to better serve older consumers. Attendees learned about the value of creating a corporate culture that prioritizes age-inclusive practices and fosters a deeper understanding of the aging process among employees.


In "Working Together: A National, Local, and Coalition Approach to Addressing the Epidemic of Social Isolation and Loneliness," experts like Caitlin Ruppel, Science & Policy, Public Health Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Jillian Racoosin, Executive Director of the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness, Katie Wade, Senior Director of Creative Engagement at Front Porch, and Mark Meridy, Executive Director of DOROT, Inc., highlighted collaborative efforts and evidence-based strategies to tackle the devastating health consequences of social isolation and loneliness, particularly among older adults. The session emphasized the power of collaboration in developing comprehensive solutions and the importance of evidence-based strategies in combating social isolation.


The workshop on "Qmmunity Connection Across Generations" provided valuable insights into fostering multigenerational connections within the TwoSpiritLGBTQIA+ community. Led by World Famous BOB, Activities and Programming Specialist at Rainbow Connections ATX, a program of Family Eldercare, attendees learned about the importance of holding space for elders and facilitating intergenerational opportunities to strengthen community resilience and cohesion.


Additionally, sessions like "California's Master Plan for Aging: Innovation and Impact" and "Better Together: Area Agencies on Aging as Key Partners in the Multisector Plan for Aging Development Process" highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts and evidence-based approaches in addressing complex aging-related challenges at both state and local levels.


Lastly, initiatives like "College Students Spark National Intergenerational Connection" and "WashU for Life: An Age-Friendly University Initiative" showcased the transformative potential of intergenerational relationships and age-friendly initiatives within educational institutions, promoting lifelong learning and challenging age-related stereotypes.


From thought-provoking keynotes to engaging workshops, the conference provided a dynamic platform for professionals, gerontologists, and thought leaders to come together and drive innovative solutions in aging. Sessions like "Age-Friendly Communities Through an Intergenerational Lens" and "Overcoming the Direct Care Workforce Crisis" illuminated pressing challenges and offered evidence-based strategies for addressing them.


Learning from experts like Erin Maruzzella, Rachel Cohen, Bianca Frogner, and others, I gained a deeper understanding of the transformative impact of intergenerational connections, the critical role of evidence-based solutions in workforce development, and the unique contributions gerontologists can make in enhancing organizational effectiveness.


Moreover, initiatives like "Qmmunity Connection Across Generations" and "College Students Spark National Intergenerational Connection" highlighted the power of community and collaboration in promoting inclusivity and challenging age-related stereotypes.


Overall, On Aging 2024 not only equipped me with practical knowledge and skills but also ignited my passion for advocating for policies and initiatives that support the well-being of older adults. As a graduate student in gerontology, I am inspired to contribute to the ongoing efforts to create age-friendly communities and promote positive aging outcomes for all.


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