Q&A with Joyce Weil, PhD, MPH from the University of Northern Colorado, in Greely, CO.
“While it’s been said before: never lose the gerontological imagination in your work. Work with older persons as co-creators of your research…”
Q: How long have you been a GSA member?
A: I became a member of GSA during graduate school because my dissertation focused on the relationship of performance and self-rated measures and depression in older persons. I had participated in the mentoring roundtables as a doctoral student. Currently, I am completing my term as one of three conveners (co-leaders) of a Qualitative Research Interest Group of which I have also been a member. As part of my convener role, I review symposia abstracts, promote qualitative work, and have brought ATLAS.ti to sponsor a prior interest group meeting.
Q: How does GSA assist with your professional development?
A: GSA’s annual meetings provide me (and all attendees) with the latest, emergent trends in the field. You get to hear experts in the field present their latest studies and are able to update your knowledge and keep abreast of current trends before they are published in academic journals. The conference, newsletters, and GSA Connect also makes me feel a part of a larger, collegial group.
Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?
A: Personally, I was raised with my grandparents and great aunts and uncles. My great aunt lived upstairs from my parents and always came home from the senior center with her friends who were part of a center-based dance group. They always had so much fun. As a child, I remember begging my mother to let me go upstairs with my great aunt and the dancers to be a part of the excitement. Who knew, that the center would eventually become the topic of one of my books? I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who lived down the block; she took me to preschool every day, and when she ran card parties, I “worked” with her to serve Danish and coffee to the card players. Professionally, I was part of a federally funded hip-fracture project, and my duties as an assistant project manager included doing follow-up calls. I talked to many people in their 80s, three and six month post-hip fracture. After the structured interview was completed, they often wanted to chat, and I was lucky to be able to learn about their experience of health and aging through their own eyes.
Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA, especially the annual meeting, provides researchers with emergent trends in the field of aging on multiple levels. The meetings also offer a place for academics to network socially. The journals are a key resource to staying well-informed of developments in the field. When you join GSA, you become part of a larger collective of people with a shared interest.
Q: What are your key responsibilities at your job?
A: As an academic, an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Colorado, I divide my time among research, teaching, and service. The majority of my work is teaching graduate-level gerontology courses in a social-gerontology program. I also work with a continuum-of-care community partner to do community-engaged learning with undergraduates.
Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: As a social gerontologist, it is my passion to study how the experience of aging is impacted by the society and time in which one lives. The most memorable experience in aging research for me was the ability to write up a six-year ethnographic study on the closure of senior centers in New York. This was done from multi-level perspectives, from individual senior-centergoers to organizational politics to larger societal issues evaluating aging and older people. That research resulted in one of my books, The New Neighborhood Senior Center: Redefining Social and Service Roles for the Baby Boom Generation.
Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: While it’s been said before: never lose the gerontological imagination in your work. Work with older persons as co-creators of your research, and be self-reflexive and ethical in your practice of gerontology in the field. As passed GSA Member Chuck Longino, Jr., PhD told us, never forget the humanity behind the numbers/data.
Q: Tell us a little about your most recent activities/accomplishments?
A: Currently, I am under contract to write a book called, Research on Aging and Social Gerontology:
Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods with Routledge. I am also a team member on a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant award to create an adult acute-care gerontological nurse practitioner program at the University of Northern Colorado, and I’m working on another federal grant submission about rural aging. I was fortunate to give a presentation to WICHE about the eldercare workforce and also be the keynote speaker at the Boulder AAA Conference: Creating Our Future Together, where I talked about aging in place in many places. I am honored to be preparing a webinar for Senior Center Month, September 2016, for the National Institute of Senior Centers, to talk about best practices, based on my book.
Q: Have you had an important mentor in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: My dissertation mentor, Rosemary Cooney, inspired me to pursue my love of research and aging and gave me the skills to do so. I learn from all my colleagues and have sought out many mentors throughout my career. When I was starting out, I also did the mentorship roundtables at GSA and thought they were super. I got, and continue to receive, direction from many experts in the field.