Q&A with Linda A. Hunt, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA from Pacific University in Whitefish, Montana
“Researchers learn from each other and generate more creative ideas and approaches to research and program development.”
Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I have been a GSA member since 2008.
Q: What GSA member benefit do you like best and why?
A: I find the publications extremely beneficial. They provide the latest research information. Plus, I learn about new programs that benefit older adults.
Q: How has membership in GSA benefited you?
A: I teach gerontology and occupational therapy at Pacific University. GSA publications have been instrumental in my teaching. I share the published papers with students to provide the latest information.
Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: From the love of my grandmother who died when I was eight years old. She baked challah and cookies for me, and gave me bread to feed the pigeons, which then turned me into a bird lover. She taught me to listen carefully when talking with a person whose native language was not English. Because of her love, I grew up seeking the company of old people.
Q: Why is it important for other individuals to join GSA?
A: Aging research is exploding in biology, psychology, sociology, and public health. GSA provides the latest research in all these areas and more. Those working with older adults or teaching about aging need to be knowledgeable about the current research findings. Researchers learn from each other and generate more creative ideas and approaches to research and program development.
Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: At Pacific University I am faculty in two programs, School of Occupational Therapy and Gerontology program. I am the director of the Gerontology program. All of my teaching is through online education. I focus my teaching on providing best practice to older adults. I recruit students to work in the area of gerontology. I seek partnerships with those who want to provide creative programs for older adults.
Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: I have evaluated hundreds of older adults for their driving abilities. I have been able to contribute to the dementia and driving literature through my actual experiences taking older people with dementia on the road for driver evaluations. This has enabled me to examine, describe, and quantify how people with dementia drive and perceive their driving abilities. I am a strong voice for driving cessation for any adult experiencing dementia. My research has described the dangers of drivers in the early stages of dementia getting lost while driving in familiar areas even when passengers accompany them in vehicles. Getting lost may result in accidents and/or death.
Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: Find people from various disciplines to collaborate for program development and research. Gerontology is an interprofessional field.
Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments?
A: I am passionate about bringing quality of life to older adults. I believe helping older adults stay employed (if they desire to) brings quality of life. I recently published a book with a colleague from the UK, Caroline Wolverson entitled, Work and the Older Person: Increasing Longevity and Wellbeing published by SLACK. The book presents research on the benefits of being productive in old age, and provides strategies to help older people stay engaged and purposeful through working and volunteering. There exists a myth that older people retire at age 65 and therefore, some healthcare workers do not inquire about employment status. Older adults need our help in finding ways to maintain employment.
Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: I have had many mentors and I am grateful to all of them. The two that readily come to mind are Drs. John C. Morris and Carolyn Baum from Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Morris mentored me through the process of writing grants, doing research, and publishing. Dr. Baum helped me find my niche in the field of occupational therapy by providing opportunities for me to deliver occupational therapy services in the community. Through her mentorship, I was able to develop a Driver Evaluation Program, Parkinson’s Exercise Program, work in home care where I learned how to assist people aging in place, and multiple other opportunities. Dr. Baum was instrumental in introducing me to professionals working with older adults from various fields. This developed my interprofessional lens when thinking about best practice for older adults.