Episode 70

April 06, 2024


#70 | Aaron Guest | 10 Principles for Engaging Aging Adults

Hosted by

Tony Siebers Bina Colman
#70 | Aaron Guest | 10 Principles for Engaging Aging Adults
Parent Projects - Aging In America
#70 | Aaron Guest | 10 Principles for Engaging Aging Adults

Apr 06 2024 | 00:23:40


Show Notes

On today’s show, we are talking to Aaron Guest. Aaron Guest is an interdisciplinary trained social-environmental gerontologist and Assistant Professor of Aging in the Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University. Dr. Guest is interested in the predominant social and environmental domains older adults live, and how knowledge can lead to increased understanding of and improvements in health. The scope of his research can be grouped into three overarching themes: Social & Built Environments Approaches to Reduce Health Inequities in Older Age.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. You know, really, you know, universities for a long time have kind of been viewed as these places that people go to, you know, once in their life. These institutes of higher education they go to once in their life, and then they're kind of done. You know, they might come back for games or, you know, sports games or things like that. But once they've kind of gone through their bachelor's or whatever it may be, you know, universities have kind of had this poor wrath of being available for other generations. And one of the things that has really happened over the last 20 or so years is universities are really looking at how can we assist in individuals across the line. [00:00:39] Speaker B: Welcome to aging in America. I am your host, Bena Coleman. And on Today's show, we have Aaron guest. He is an assistant professor at ASU as well as a gerontologist. And he is here to talk to us about not only age friendly ecosystems, but free resources for you and your loved ones. And welcome, Erin. We're so excited to have you here. [00:00:59] Speaker A: Thank you so much. I'm thrilled to be joining you today. [00:01:02] Speaker B: Thank you. So I know there's so much to talk about. You are a researcher in gerontology, which is amazing as a fellow gerontologist. There's not many of us out there. So tell us a little bit about you, your background. I'd love to learn more about how you got into gerontology. [00:01:20] Speaker A: Yeah, so I am my doctorate in gerontology. I have training in public health and social work. And really my interest kind of, in aging and gerontology really developed looking at how we can ensure that our communities are prepared for our aging populations and that we're able to access the resources and tools that we need to as we age, both for those that we may be caring for now, but also ourselves as we age. It's been an exciting journey that kind of started in graduate school and has continued on to this day. [00:01:54] Speaker B: That's awesome. Did you do your graduate at ASU as well? [00:02:00] Speaker A: I didn't. So I did my master's programs at the University of South Carolina, and then I went to the University of Kentucky for my PhD. And then a lot of life circumstances brought me out to Arizona, so I'm thrilled to be here now. Yeah, it's very different from the east coast. Very different. [00:02:21] Speaker B: You touched on something right away, off the bat, I wanted to touch on. You said, you know, we're researching and we have all these resources for not only our loved ones, but for us as well. And it's so true because we all know that the aging population is just getting bigger and bigger, so it's only going to get larger by the time we get there. And it's important I always tell people or your friends truthfully and family that might not know, like ask me, because you don't need to know what, what I know in this field. There's just so much out there. There's so many resources I want to make sure everyone gets a hold of. [00:02:54] Speaker A: Absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, we tend not to think about aging or, you know, what aging resources exist until perhaps our loved ones or friend needs access. But then I think also considering about how we might use those resources are ensuring that we're in an environment that we're able to have the resources that we want for ourselves, to support ourselves. Aging are those that we provide care for is really critical. [00:03:17] Speaker B: Yep, absolutely. Absolutely. So speaking of that and resources, I know you're doing some very cool research, and I'd love for you kind of to dive a little bit into what you're researching at the moment. Of course, I'm going to have a million questions. I just think this topic is so fascinating and we can kind of start with what you're researching. [00:03:39] Speaker A: Yeah. So a lot of my research falls in kind of two areas. I look at broadly how the social and built environment influences health, and I do that through a lot of different approaches, looking at both individuals, the older adult themselves, caregivers, students, kind of trying to learn more about the experiences of individuals as they think about age and as they are aging. And then the other side of that is identifying and developing kind of the resources, interventions, and tools that will help people age better and have more positive health homes in older adulthood as compared to adverse or negative health outcomes. And most of this has really focused around the domain of what I would call age friendly and creating age friendly and age inclusive environments that support individuals as they age. [00:04:29] Speaker B: I know I was researching about you and it's just amazing. And you touched on age friendly environments, and I know you also refer to them as ecosystems. So I know there's just so much out there for everybody. Can you give us a little idea of what some of those ecosystems or environments may be? [00:04:48] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think when we think about age friendly ecosystem, really what we're talking about is kind of the systems, practices, tools, if you will, that help individuals as they age. And while most of this does focus on kind of the older or the more advanced side of life, I think one of the things that's really critical is that age friendly is really an inclusive approach. So it's focused on making things more inclusive for all individuals, regardless of age. Kind of really embedding within systems, whether it be how we interact with our elected officials, how we think about crossing the street, really universal design principles that by making things more accessible for one group, we improve the accessibility for all groups. The areas that we mostly work in are really focused on the age friendly communities Cities States initiative, which really focus on ensuring that older individuals are able to be active participants in society and that they have the tools and resources and really kind of systems in place that allow them to be active and not age segregated, as the case often is, in society. And so how do we ensure that they're able to remain active in our society and we're developing things that support them? The other side is the age friendly health system, which, you know, the age friendly health system is really focused on ensuring that our health systems are not only prepared for the increasing number of older adults, but also that we're able to use the best evidence based approaches to ensure high quality care. And that really focuses on what they call the four MS, you know, identifying what matters for the older adult, what medication is being used, in particular, if that medication is causing cognitive decline, mentation, meaning people that are able to, you know, really be able to prevent, identify, treat, and manage any symptoms of dementia, depression or delirium, and then mobility, ensuring that individuals are able to remain mobile as they age. And then, of course, one that I mostly engage with, being as faculty at a university, is really the age friendly university, part of the ecosystem, which really focuses on ensuring that universities are responsive to this new demographic shift that's occurring, and that we're able to engage older individuals, their caregivers, their loved ones, and kind of the core activities of the university. [00:07:16] Speaker B: So I want to learn more about that because I do think that's and fabulous, a wonderful idea and way to keep your brain active and obviously getting to classes. There's just so many good parts of that. But you did mention one thing about the community. So I was kind of wondering, what are some of the ways that in the community to keep the elderly population active or engaged and feeling like they belong as they do? [00:07:44] Speaker A: Yeah. So age friendly communities really cover a gambit of kind of activities. You know, the eight domains that people tend to focus on are, you know, community and healthcare, transportation, housing, social participation, outdoor spaces, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment and communication. And so one of the things that's so exciting is it varies from location to location that becomes an age friendly community. But I think I would say what's common throughout them is that they're really focusing on ensuring that we're not just develop, you know, we're not developing things that leave out a segment of our population. So one of the go to examples is really thinking about something that a lot of us don't think about, but thinking about sidewalks and crossing and crossing streets, you know, so the generally, you know, crossing a street about 10 seconds. But what we know is that's not enough for individuals with limited mobility or who had advanced in age to be able to do. And so a simple thing that many locations have done is extend the time individuals have to cross the streets. It also means ensuring that cities, counties, states are providing programs for older individuals to engage in. And it's not parks and Rec is able to offer programs for older adults and that there are activities for them, that there's recreation centers, that they're able to participate in discussions or community events that they want to, that there's not needless barriers, that they're able to access health care, and that there's transportation services available to help them. I know for me, whenever I go to a new city, I'm always confused about the subway. So it's like, how do we. Our subway, our transportation? So how do we develop systems that are more accessible to everyone? [00:09:32] Speaker B: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I completely agree. Transportation is probably one of the bigger ones if they can't get to their appointments or, or they can't get to even an activity that you mentioned. So, yeah, so that's great. That's really, really wonderful. I really love the four M's you brought up as well. I think those are so important for people to keep in mind and to really realize that mobility, medication, what matters to them. I always say to people, you want to keep your loved ones safe and secure, but I would think that would fall under what matters to them. Like, that's keeping them safe and secure. That's great. So now for the big one, because I know you're doing so much research and you're at ASU, which is so wonderful, but can you talk about the university part of this age friendly collaboration? I think it's so cool. I think if it's what I have in mind, that it's something people should take advantage of. So I'm excited to learn more. [00:10:30] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. You know, really, you know, universities for a long time have kind of been viewed as these places that people go to, you know, once in their life. These institutes of higher education they go to once in their life, and then they're kind of done. You know, they might come back for games or, you know, sports games or things like that. But once they've kind of gone through their bachelor's or whatever it may be, you know, universities have kind of had this poor wrap of being available for other generations. And one of the things that has really happened over the last 20 or so years is universities are really looking at how can we assist individuals across the life, recognizing that jobs change, the training, you know, you need to have new trainings, and that even in retirement, there's opportunities to engage in university life, and there's some pretty strong health benefits around social engagement and inclusion. You know, really, I think where we look at the Age Friendly universities initiative, it really focuses on ensuring that older adults are part of the core activities of the university. It's focused on ensuring intergenerational learning. So that means, you know, sharing and connecting older generations and younger generations so that they can learn from one another. Ensuring that we're addressing in our research activities that can promote individuals and their caregivers as they age, that people are engaged in health and wellness and cultural activities from the university. And the way that that works, it varies from university to university. But some very common themes we have is, for example, older adults being able to take college classes on the campus. Yeah. The development of lifelong learning programs. The Osher lifelong learning program being a prime example that there's 125 of them throughout the United States that deliver topical lifelong learning opportunities that range from, I always say, how to use your computer to things focused more on the region, such as history classes are things that are kind of focused based on individuals interest in the region to even having mentorship programs set up that connects individuals who have retired from careers with students who are in the field. You know, we're doing a lot here, really trying to bridge the gap between, you know, our older and our younger generations and also trying to provide students with mentorship and mentorship as well. [00:12:51] Speaker B: I had no idea. Didn't even think of the mentorship part of that. And that is so cool. I think that is so great. I know on ASU's campus, they have Mirabella. [00:13:02] Speaker A: Yes. [00:13:03] Speaker B: Which is very unique to ASU. And please correct me if I'm wrong, for those who don't know what Mirabella is, it is a senior living community, actually. That's right on the campus. And so it's part of that intergenerational living that you talked about. [00:13:17] Speaker A: Absolutely. Mirabelle is an amazing kind of resource. That we have here at ASU. It's what, part of a, of new wave called university based retirement communities. And while there have been different types kind of across the United States, what makes Mirabella really unique is it's the first one that's physically on a campus. Oftentimes they would be one 5 miles off, you know, off campus. They were more university affiliated. And what really makes it, you know, unique is not only are the older adults and the residents taking NASU classes, they're going to class, they're going to cultural events, they're attending student meetings, but that students are also coming to Mirabella to interact with the individuals who live there through mentorship training. You know, there's a foreign language club, for example, that meets. They go on trips that they can go on together and participate kind of in everything that the university has to offer. The benefit being a Mirabella, it's also a continuum, care retirement community. So individuals are able to move in, and also, as they need additional assistance, they can access that additional assistance. [00:14:25] Speaker B: So I'm sure you've been, Erin, but I got the pleasure of taking a tour there, and it's beautiful. And like you said, it's right on campus. It's pretty remarkable. Yeah, it's really, really neat. [00:14:37] Speaker A: Yeah, it's wonderful. I was telling someone, I spend about a day a week down there. I feel like now, but it's such a great environment to be in that it's, it's, it's hard to complain. [00:14:47] Speaker B: Yeah, right. Totally. Wow. These are very, very cool. I don't know if everyone would use that word, but as gerontologists, I think these are very cool initiatives that you're taking. And for the university part, obviously, we've touched on ASU. We're here in Arizona. But how many universities nationwide? Is this going to be a worldwide thing? What are you seeing for that? [00:15:11] Speaker A: Yeah, I think more and more universities are taking on these activities. You know, most states actually have programs where older adults are able to access college classes either free or reduced cost. So that's an option that's available nationally. You know, about 81 universities in the United States are age friendly universities. And so they can, of course, people can visit afugn.org to kind of learn more about the local universities in their regional, as I mentioned, lifelong learning. There's 125 osher lifelong learning programs in the United States. And so those are programs that are specifically targeted to older learners. And you're able to look those up by googling or visiting the osher lifelong learning website. And I think the thing, too, I would say, is that we're seeing increasingly new opportunities develop out of universities that are wanting to engage their, not only their alumni, and I think that's important, you know, but really engage the entire community. One of the things, you know, and it's the last thing I'll say about ESG, I promise. But one of the things I've been very excited about that we, we've been doing is really thinking about how do we make our campus more accessible to all people. Campuses are very wide spaces. So are there ways that we can develop transportation options, for example, that allow people to access resources easier? And are there ways, and increasingly you're seeing this, that we can think about how we can support our own employees as they work with their aging parents. So how can we make information available, not just for the older individual, but also for those who might be caring for them, are facing challenges, and I've never faced this before. [00:16:52] Speaker B: It is interesting you bring up the caregiver aspect of that because you're right. You know, just because someone who's aging may want to come and take a class as they should, they will most likely may not, but most likely have a caregiver with them. And so you're right, there's a lot that, a lot more that goes into that. So I know you mentioned the few websites. Can you just repeat them one more time? I just want to make sure everyone can, especially like the adult children who are looking for activities for their parents where they can go to say, hey, listen, we have this in our local university. Mom and dad, why don't you go see about a class? So can you give those to us again? [00:17:30] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the first one is really the age friendly university global network website, and that's afugn.org. You're able to go there and you're able to kind of look at the institutions in North America and kind of each state that have that offering. That would be probably the first place I would go. I think that we could also, you know, the Ollie lifelong learning programs are a national program. And so I always encourage everyone to kind of google their university or just Google osher lifelong learning, and it will come up. If there's one nearby, there's 125 of them, and every state has at least one. And so those are available. And then really, I encourage people to go to their state department of aging services or their state unit on aging or even their area agency on aging to learn more about the classes that are being offered. So, like I said, in most and I think it's only four states now don't have programs that allow individuals to access classes, either free or at a reduced cost over a certain age. And so that's a great opportunity. And, you know, the courses aren't just for them. They're also, you know, many of the age friendly universities also offer courses and resources for individuals who are providing care, or maybe caregivers, ours included, you know, offering courses on how to navigate dementia, how to navigate financial changes. What documents do you need in place? One of the things I think we're seeing more and more people are experiencing is long distance caregiving. So I live in Arizona, but I'm providing care for someone who lives in New York. So how do I connect and how do I identify what I need to do there and then each of the other components of the age friendly ecosystem, age friendly health systems. For example, you're able to kind of visit the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which maintains a list of age friendly health systems if you would like to identify an age friendly health system to go to. [00:19:36] Speaker B: So you've touched on a few things I'd like to bring up. One is the classes, and you made a really good point, because I was thinking of the adult children telling their aging loved ones, like, go take a class. But also the adult children need to know as well what class or not what class. Excuse me, but like you said, what documents we may need in the future, how to deal with dementia. I mean, there's so much that goes into it. So if that is stuff that is offered as well, that's fabulous. And then you did. You touched on the age friendly healthcare or the health system. So does that mean that there are certain healthcare systems that are more age friendly than others? Is that what that is? Yeah. [00:20:21] Speaker A: No, it's actually what the age friend. Each of these is a designation that a community, a health system or a university kind of commits to and undergoes. So it's know, for the age friendly healthcare systems, it's much like their accreditation. It's a process they undergo and they actually, those institutions that are age friendly health systems have instituted specific programs, policies, data collection strategies that really target and meet kind of the forum framework requirements, meaning that, you know, when an individual comes in, they are asking them what matters? How can we review their medication? How can we review their mobility? How can we understand what they need? So, yeah, no, absolutely. These are designations that really, I believe, really support people in finding some of the best care that they can for individuals. [00:21:14] Speaker B: Yeah. Wow. This is amazing, Erin. I just am so impressed with all the research you're doing at ASU and by yourself and your team, I just think it's so amazing. And there's just so many people that are going to be able to benefit from all of this. So thank you so, so much. I know I had you repeat some websites, but people want to get in contact with you or anything else you want to share about yourself. Please feel free to do that now. [00:21:40] Speaker A: Yeah, no, I would encourage people to reach out to us. You can find me on the issue. Erin guest I'm pretty easy to find, and so we definitely welcome people to reach out. But it's been, you know, it's been great to be here and we're continuously learning, so I look forward to seeing where things go in the future. [00:22:00] Speaker B: Well, wonderful. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for being here and sharing all this wonderful knowledge for everyone else. Please, you know, reach out to Aaron or go to the websites you suggested and feel free to follow us and share this information with others. So thank you so much for being here with aging in America. [00:22:17] Speaker A: Thank you. [00:22:22] Speaker C: Well, that's it for Steam this week, and thanks for joining us. If you've enjoyed the content, remember to subscribe and share this episode on the app that you're using right now. Your reviews and your comments, they really help us expand our reach as well as our perspectives. So if you have time, also drop us a note. Let us know how we're doing for tips and tools to clarify your parent project, simplify communication with your stakeholders, and verify the professionals that you choose. You can find us on YouTube, follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Thanks again for trusting us. Until our next episode. Behold and be held. [00:22:55] Speaker D: Thank you for listening to this parent projects podcast production. To access our show notes, resources or forums, join us on your favorite social media platform or go to parentprojects.com. This show is for informational and educational purposes only. Before making any decisions, consult a professional credential in your local area. This show is copyrighted by Family Media and Technology Group, Inc. And parent Projects, LLC. Written permissions must be granted before syndication or rebroadcast it.

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