Honoring Work to Support Innovation in Aging | MIT News | So Good News


On September 13, MIT AgeLab co-hosted a 10-year celebration of Boston Bridge, a long-time AgeLab professional development nonprofit organization in the field of aging.

Since its inception in 2012, AgeLab has been affiliated with Boston Bridge, an interdisciplinary program that works with business, government and non-governmental organizations to improve the quality of life for older adults and their caregivers. MIT AgeLab researcher Taylor Patskanik is the current president of Boston Bridge, and the MIT Sloan School of Management is the current site of Boston Bridge’s monthly meetings.

Boston Bridge hosts meetings and networking events that invite established and emerging professionals in the field of aging to exchange experiences with those interested in or engaged in the field of aging. The organization also connects older and younger professionals for mentoring opportunities.

The growing number of aging Americans means we can’t afford to ignore seniors, Patskanik said in opening remarks for the anniversary celebration. He also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly tightened the labor market, while the aging population has created an unprecedented demand for professionals working with and serving the elderly.

Boston Bridge’s focus on mentoring makes it a professional development organization and a form of intergenerational programming. And the genesis of Boston Bridge was an intergenerational affair: the organization was founded by Barbara Friedman, who recently retired as director of intergenerational programming at the nonprofit 2Life Communities, and Elana Kieffer, a recent graduate of Brandeis University.

Early in his career, when Friedman was a high school biology teacher, he noticed that his class textbook ended up discussing the development of the human body after the age of 25. “I asked myself,” he said, “Is something wrong? The body after 25?’” This observation of the lack of attention to the experience of older people, he says, later led him to a career in aging and, ultimately, to founding the Boston Bridge.

As Boston Bridge has grown and endured in the decade since its inception, the organization has released a replication guide for professionals to develop similar programs in their cities. The Boston area has proven to be home to many firsts in aging innovation: In 2020 and 2021 The Boston Globe published a series of articles highlighting aspects of the city’s role as a ‘longevity centre’.

Emily Shea, commissioner of Boston’s Age Strong Commission; Sandra Harris, vice president of AARP Massachusetts; and Alice Bonner, former secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office on Aging and current senior advisor on aging at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, also spoke at the ceremony. Speaking about her professional experience working with the elderly, Bonner said, “My first job in a nursing home was like being on another planet … it changes you.” People who choose to work with and help the elderly, he said, are a special group of professionals worth investing in and developing.

Friedman and Kieffer, as well as Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT AgeLab, received awards for their contributions to the development of the Boston Bridge. Commenting on Boston Bridge’s role in developing an aging workforce and promoting thought leadership on how to serve an aging population, Coughlin said, “Boston Bridge is a stepping stone to investing in action. Innovation comes from working people.”


Source link