Presenting ASA's 2019 Award Winners 

The ASA awards program annually recognizes deserving individuals for their leadership and contributions to ASA and to the field of aging. The ASA leadership awards program includes the ASA Hall of Fame Award, the ASA Award, the Gloria Cavanaugh Award for Excellence in Training and Education, the Mental Health and Aging Award and the Award for Excellence in Multicultural Aging.

The ASA Award is presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to aging-related research, administration or advocacy. The 2019 ASA Award goes to Sandra Timmermann, whose career has intertwined with her contributions to ASA and the field of aging at large. Her doctoral work at Columbia University, where she held a Kelloff Fellowship in educational gerontology, led to her position as Associate Dean, then Director of the Institute of Lifetime Learning at AARP. Timmermann was Vice President at MetLife and Founder and Director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the company’s focal point on aging research and education, and served as the company’s spokesperson on retirement issues. At ASA, she served as Director of Education from 1989 to 1994, and has served on the ASA Board of Directors, chaired the LEARN Constituency Group, chaired the ASA Business Forum on Aging, guest-edited an issue of Generations on Business and Aging, chaired ASA’s Education and Awards committees, served on the Aging Today Editorial Advisory Committee and is a founding leadership team member of ASA’s Corps of Accomplished Professionals.

Jim Sykes is the winner of the 2019 ASA Hall of Fame Award. This award is presented to an individual who has, through a lifetime of advocacy and leadership, enhanced the lives of elders through demonstrated leadership at the national level. Over six decades, Sykes worked for the betterment of older people, advocating at the local, regional and federal levels in the areas of affordable housing, aging services, strategic planning, nonprofit public service, corporate philanthropic oversight and also taught aging policy to upcoming generations of gerontologists. Currently, he is Senior Advisor for Aging Policy at the University of Wisconsin, in Population Health Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health. From 1976−81, he served under President Jimmy Carter as Vice-Chairman of the Federal Council on Aging, in 1995 he was on the Advisory Committee for the White House Conference on Aging as well as being an International Observer in 2005. He has testified before U.S. Congressional committees on numerous occasions and was a National Council on Aging NGO representative at many U.N. events. Sykes has been a longtime active member of ASA, recently co-convening its Global Ageing affinity group.

The Gloria Cavanaugh Award for Excellence in Training and Education recognizes an individual or program that has made a significant contribution to training and education in the field of aging. The 2019 award goes to Money Smart for Older Adults, a comprehensive, national, no-cost, awareness and education program on recognizing and preventing fraud and scams.

The Religion, Spirituality and Aging Award recognizes outstanding individuals, programs and services in religion, spirituality and aging, in an effort to inspire more spiritual exploration within the aging services field. Marita Grudzen, winner of the 2019 Religion, Spirituality and Aging Award, has been a strong supporter of chaplains in the medical system and a mentor to many in the field of spirituality and aging. Grudzen is the retired deputy director of the Stanford Geriatric Education Center and has been course coordinator at Stanford’s Center for Education and Research in Family and Community Medicine. She received a Templeton Award for the medical school curriculum, “Spirituality and Meaning in Medicine,” and has made a career of writing and mentoring faculty trainees in Ethnogeriatrics and Spirituality in End-of-Life care. An ASA member for many years, she has presented at multiple Aging in America conferences, on topics such as cultural competency in end-of-life care. She also was co-founder of the Center for Aging and Spirituality in Cupertino, Calif., and ,with her husband, is involved in the interfaith program “Path to Peace Kenya.”

The Award for Excellence in Multicultural Aging recognizes organizations that have demonstrated high-quality, innovative programs enhancing the lives of a multicultural aging population. The 2019 winner is the Latino Age Wave Colorado | Conectores de Montbello program in Denver, Colo. Latino Age Wave Colorado (LAWC), a program of the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado, initiated a place-based, community-driven project in one of Denver's neighborhoods to learn more about how Latino older adults are either thriving or struggling to age in community. Through partnerships with local leadership, LAWC evolved into a series of “pop up” activities for Latino older adults and their families hosted by four Conectoras (a hybrid term blending the roles of a promotora and a community organizer). Program activities include home visits, connection to resources (plus follow up) and a menu of social activities inspired by group participants, including a monthly meeting, coffee talks, Mexican bingo and a craft group. To date, 265 individuals have participated in at least one community-based activity, and the group also has built relationships with the University of Colorado’s Dental School to provide discounted dental services and with the Food Bank of the Rockies to deliver its prepackaged pantry box program to elders who cannot travel to the local food distribution site.

The Mental Health and Aging Award recognizes outstanding programs and services in mental health and aging. The 2019 winner is Frederic Blow, an internationally recognized expert in older adult mental health and addiction services. He is a Professor in and Director of the Addiction Center in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, as well as Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research at the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System. Since 2001, he has been National Huss Family/Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Endowed Research Chair on Substance Abuse in Older Adults at the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Blow has served on the ASA Board of Directors and chaired the ASA Mental Health and Aging Network. Instrumental in the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2012 “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands,” he had been appointed to the IOM’s Committee on the Mental Health Workforce for Geriatric Populations to study the issue and make recommendations. He advocated for implementing the Committee’s recommendations, notably through a session at the Aging in America Conference. Blow is Co-Scientific Director of the SAMHSA Older Adult Technical Assistance Center, promoting the implementation of older adult evidence practices and providing technical assistance to SAMHSA-funded projects serving diverse populations.

The MindAlert Award is given to a mental fitness program that is developed by a nonprofit organization and serves the general population of older adults. The 2019 MindAlert Award winner is the Birdsong Tablet, which was born out of a three-year award-winning research study about the impact of personalized computers upon the daily life of older adults with dementia that was conducted in partnership with Eastern Virginia Medical School, Virginia Wesleyan University and the nonprofit life-plan community Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay. The study showed that compared with residents who did not have digital engagement tools, those with simple touchscreen computers saw a 55 percent decrease in depression, a 14 percent improvement in their quality of life and a 6.95 percent increase in cognition scoring, as measured by The Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Having the tablet readily available also created a 20 percent decrease in caregiver stress, a 55 percent decrease in depression and a 7 percent decrease in blood pressure. Despite those statistics, people were unwilling to pay the high prices of available tablets, so Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay established a partnership with French company TMM Groupe to develop the Birdsong Tablet. The tablet was made available to Westminster-Canterbury residents in late March 2018.

The Graduate Student Research Award is given to spur academic and clinical interest in the field of aging, and rewards the best unpublished graduate research paper on a completed project relevant to aging and applicable to practice. The 2019 winner is Eun-Hye Grace Yi, for her dissertation, “Does Acculturation Matter? Advance Care Planning and End-of-Life Care Preferences Among Foreign-Born Older Immigrants in the U.S.” Using a sample from the National Health and Aging Trends Study from 2011–2012, Yi’s study examined the association of factors affecting advance care planning and end-of-life treatment preferences in foreign-born immigrants. Yi found that whereas more than half of native whites completed end-of-life plans, older immigrants in three other racial groups showed completion rates of below 50 percent. Yi has completed a number of other research projects geared toward improving healthcare and quality of life for older adults, including investigating the use and development of user-friendly “apps” that provide dementia caregivers access to information and support; she also has written another paper examining the impact of the caregiver provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Yi is a doctoral student at the Indiana University School of Social Work in Indianapolis, pursuing a doctorate through a program requiring multiple manuscript dissertations, and is a “conscientious emerging gerontology scholar,” according to the Ph.D. Program Director, Margaret Adamek. Yi will be profiled in a future issue of Aging Today.

Editor’s Note: This article appears in the March/April 2019 issue of Aging Today, ASA’s bi-monthly newspaper covering issues in aging research, practice and policy nationwide. ASA members receive Aging Today as a member benefit; non-members may purchase subscriptions at our online store.