Behavioral Gerontology

Photo by armina arhm on Unsplash

By Zoe Lucock

Behavioral gerontology, the application and philosophy of behavior analysis to the problems of adults age 65 and older, has a long tradition, from Ogden Lindsley’s (1964) chapter on the design of geriatric behavioral prosthetics, and Skinner and Vaughan’s (1983) practical advice on how to compensate for physical decline and enjoy old age, to recent Journal of Applied behavior Analysis publications on improving activity engagement and reinforcer selection for individuals with neurocognitive disorders (e.g., Engstrom, Mudford, & Brand, 2015; Lucock, Sharp & Jones, 2020). Indeed, behavior analysts across specialities work with older adults. The Behavioral Gerontology SIG (BGSIG) provides a forum for students, practitioners, and researchers with interests in applying the science, practice, and philosophy of behavior analysis to the problems encountered by adults in later life. Our goal is to promote the development, implementation, and evaluation of behavior analytic solutions to a wide variety of topics of high public health significance in the older adult population. Among these are the self-management for health promotion and disease prevention, functional assessments of and interventions for behavioural changes commonly associated with neurocognitive disorders (e.g.. Alzheimer’s disease), aging with a disability, and effective healthcare navigation, including participation in inter- or multidisciplinary teams.

During the past year, The BGSIG has made continued efforts to disseminate behavior-analytic research and clinical practice related to the problems of older adults through our social media channels. As of March 2022, the BGSIG Twitter account had 593 followers (+13 followers), the BGSIG Facebook page had 2379 followers, and the closed Facebook group moderated by the BGSIG committee members had 602 members (+180 members). Over the last year, the BGSIG has approved and instituted formal bylaws and has implemented membership fees with the administration of dues now implemented through ABAI. The new BGSIG website went live in October 2021 and is now hosted and supported by ABAI. The website features a variety of content including blog articles from behavioral gerontologists, lists of relevant resource and journals and details about the SIG. In addition, the website has a “members only” section where BG SIG members can access training resources and videos of previous ABAI conference talks on behavioral gerontology. The BGSIG committee has held quarterly meetings to facilitate ongoing development of the BGSIG’s goals. This year the BGSIG also began offering case consultation groups to practitioners in the field and these will be continued to be offered on an as-needed basis to BGSIG members.

Over the next year, the BGSIG intends to focus on increasing membership numbers; membership rates have decreased in comparison to previous years in the changeover to the new system, a decrease that we had anticipated, so promotion of the benefits of membership is needed. The SIG currently has 36 members consisting of six affiliate members, 18 full members and 12 student members. We also intend to discuss offering more events and resources related to behavioral gerontology research and practice, which may also increase membership rates.

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