Presidential Symposia

Presidential Symposia were developed by the president and program chairs. Interdisciplinary in nature, these sessions were created around the theme of the meeting.

Comparative Aging Around the World: The Gateway to Global Aging
Thursday, November 15
8 to 9:30 am
Chair: Jinkook Lee
Presenters: Paola Zaninotto, Joseph Saenz, Lindsay Ryan, Jennifer Ailshire, David Weir
International comparisons of the aging experience can provide natural laboratories that aide in understanding the universalities as well as the differences in the process of aging. The last two decades have seen the development of longitudinal aging studies in over 40 countries of the world. Many of these studies have been harmonized within the Gateway to Global Aging in order to encourage and facilitate comparative analysis across countries. Each of the four papers in this session uses harmonized data to compare the aging experience in multiple countries. Topics include healthy life expectancy, cognitive aging, life satisfaction, and use of health care at the end of life.

Supported by the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section.

Free Radicals and Redox Regulation in Aging
Thursday, November 15
12 to 1:30 pm
Chair: Kelvin Davies
Presenters: Jose Vina, Julie K. Andersen, Kelvin J A. Davies, Donna Zhang
José Viňa- The free radical theory of ageing provided an intellectual framework for a relationship between age and oxidative stress. However, experimental and clinical evidence has cast doubts on the validity of the theory. We find that oxidative stress correlates better with frailty than with age, leading us to postulate the free radical theory of frailty. Julie K. Andersen– Senescent cells convert to a resting state that is incapable replicating and forming tumors. However, senescent cells may increase inflammation and collateral damage. Recent data suggests that senescence occurs in conjunction with Parkinson's disease and elimination of senescent cells prevents disease-associated damage. Donna Zhang- Reactive oxygen species appear to contribute to both aging and many aging-related diseases. Nrf2 is a protective transcription factor that is critical for maintaining redox homeostasis. Unfortunately, Nrf2 effectiveness decreases with age, which may contribute to diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Kelvin J. A. Davies- Adaptive Homeostasis is the mechanism by which we adapt to changing environmental and metabolic conditions throughout the day. Unfortunately, Adaptive Homeostasis declines with age, increasing our susceptibility to frailty, senescence, and disease.

Supported by the Biological Sciences Section. This session is co-presented with the  Society for Redox Biology & Medicine and the European Society for Free Radical Research.

Functional Ability in Late Life – Implications for Risk Factor Prevention and Health Care Utilization
Thursday, November 15
3:30 to 5 pm
Chair: Elsa Strotmeyer
Discussant: Kristine Ensrud
Presenters:  Michelle Odden, Dae Hyun Kim, Eric T. Roberts, John T. Schousboe
Functional ability and disability-free survival are optimal goals for individuals and clinical care in late life. Therefore, an appreciation of factors contributing to functional ability at the oldest ages is critical for shaping preventive care and health care services. The Health Sciences Presidential Symposium will describe patient characteristics that are predictors of hospitalization readmission, health care costs and disability-free survival in late life. Additionally, the speakers will highlight novel methodology for linking characteristics in late life populations with functional endpoints in epidemiologic and health care datasets. The prediction of functional ability at the oldest ages will be described, including: 1) longitudinal risk factor trajectories predicting survival to age 90 years, free of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and disability (Odden); and 2) a validation of claims-based frailty index from measured physical performance and clinical outcomes (Kim). Health care utilization factors will be characterized as: 1) socioeconomic, disability and multimorbidity factors impacting high hospital readmission rates (Roberts); and 2) depressive symptoms, functional limitations, and multimorbidity factors contributing to total health care costs (Schousboe). The Discussant (Ensrud) will provide an overview of the opportunities and challenges of for assessing disability in late life, with a focus on use of large epidemiologic datasets and administrative claims. An understanding of key characteristics predicting functional ability at the oldest ages has implications for risk factor prevention and health care utilization.

Supported by the Health Sciences Section.

Dynamics and Diversity of the Aging Workforce: Health, Training, Technology, Employers, and Policy
Friday, November 16
8 to 9:30 am
Chair: Robert Harootyan
Discussant: Jacquelyn James
Presenters: Ernest Gonzales, Sara J. Czaja, Philip Taylor, Phyllis A. Cummins
In 1994, workers 55+ comprised 12% of the U.S. labor force; by 2024 they will reach 25%. This symposium presents compelling research findings on the dynamics of aging workforces. Cummins, et al review their analysis of PIAAC data, indicating disparities by age, SES, and employment status in job-skills training, adult education, and work-related computer use. They discuss findings on how community colleges can provide work-related education for older adults. Using an HRS sample of older workers from 2006 to 2014, Gonzales, et al found that lifetime structural discrimination and cumulative disadvantage differentially impact older workers' mental well-being, physical health, and labor force participation. Specifically, African Americans are more likely to experience these negative outcomes than whites. Czaja reviews how current technologies are reshaping work processes, job content, work settings, communication strategies, and work training, all of which emphasize cognitive skills. She reviews older adults’ performance in technology-based jobs and the implications of age-related changes in perceptual, cognitive, and psychomotor functioning related to work and discusses strategies to accommodate older workers and maximize their productivity. Taylor reviews Australia’s aging workforce and policies aimed at prolonging working lives by addressing barriers to older workers’ employment. Nationally representative surveys of Australian workers and employers indicate that the extent and nature of workplace age discrimination may be misunderstood. Although employers hold positive and negative stereotypes of both younger and older workers, these appear to have limited influence on real-world management decisions. All authors discuss implications for advocacy and policies targeting longer work lives.

Supported by the Social Research, Policy and Practice Section.

The Age-Friendly University (AFU) Initiative: Higher Education Meeting the Needs of Aging Populations
Friday, November 16
3 to 4:30 pm
Chair: Joann Montepare
Discussant: Desmond O'Neill
Presenters: Joann M. Montepare, Nina M. Silverstein, Carrie Andreoletti, Neil Charness
The aim of this symposium is to introduce GSA members to the pioneering Age-Friendly University (AFU) initiative that calls for institutions of higher education to join community leaders in responding to shifting demographics and the needs of our aging populations. The AFU initiative was recently launched by an international team convened by Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dublin City University President Brian MacCraith and resulted in the development of the 10 AFU Principles adopted by a growing number of institutions in Ireland, the USA, the UK, Canada, and beyond. Endorsed by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), the AFU Principles provide a valuable guiding framework that colleges and universities can use for distinguishing and evaluating age-friendly programs and policies, as well as identifying institutional gaps and opportunities for growth. Following an overview of the AFU initiative, data will be presented from a survey of campus leaders showing need and support, along with ageist institutional challenges. Representatives from different AFU campuses will then discuss why their institution chose to become a member of the global network and adopt the AFU Principles -- illustrating how being an AFU member has inspired a new look at aging education, lifelong learning, intergenerational exchange, community connections, and distinctive age-friendly opportunities. Information about joining the AFU network will be provided.

Supported by the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Emerging Perspectives on Extending Healthy and Purposeful Life
Friday, November 16
5 to 6:30 pm
Chair: Jamie N. Justice
Co-Chair: Shani H. Bardach
Discussant: Stephen B. Kritchevsky
Presenters: Jessica Hoffman, Elizabeth Handing, Jeffrey E. Stokes, Jeanine Yonashiro-Cho
This ESPO Presidential Symposium features a multidiscipline perspective and recent scientific advances made by early career investigators. In this symposium, rising stars and early career leaders from each of the GSA sections will provide a perspective on how the work in their field is addressing the importance and purpose of longer lives, as well as strategies to extend healthy lifespan. These talks will span research on the biologic factors that influence aging and healthy longevity across species (Biological Sciences, Hoffman), exercise and lifestyle interventions to promote cognitive and physical function and healthy aging (Health Sciences, Handing), the influence of marital quality and social environment on well-being in later life (Behavioral and Social Sciences, Stokes), and identifying vulnerability and abuse in at-risk older adults to reduce health disparities, and empower and promote healthy purposeful lives (Social Research, Policy, and Practice, Cho). Importantly, these featured talks will highlight the breadth of aims, strategies, methodologies, and tools employed across disciplines, and insights on the purpose of longer healthy lives from each field. We will include a discussion to identify synergies across fields, strategies for successful cross-discipline collaboration, and opportunities for our emerging and future scholars to address our common goal to extend healthy and purposeful life.

Supported by the Emerging Scholar and Professional Organization (ESPO).

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