Behavioural gerontology, the application and philosophy of behaviour 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 behavioural 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 teaching internet skills to older adults and reinforcer selection for individuals with neurocognitive disorders (e.g., Pachis & Zonneveld, 2019; Lucock, Sharp & Jones, 2020). Indeed, behaviour analysts across specialties work with older adults. The Behavioural Gerontology SIG (BGSIG) provides a forum for students, practitioners, and researchers with interests in applying the science, practice, and philosophy of behaviour analysis to the problems encountered by adults in later life. Our goal is to promote the development, implementation, and evaluation of behaviour analytic solutions to a wide variety of topics of high public health significance in the older adult population. Among these are 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.
The BGSIG committee has held quarterly meetings to facilitate ongoing development of the BGSIG’s goals. This will increase going forward to six meetings per year to enable more rapid progression and development on projects. The 2023 annual business meeting was held in a hybrid format allowing both members and non-members to attend in person, and BGSIG members to attend remotely if they are unable to attend the conference in person. This year the BGSIG has focused on developing and expanding the committee. Several new positions have been created including Events Coordinator, Training and Development Coordinator and Honorary Secretary. Eight new members were recruited onto the committee, taking the committee from four members to 12. New members are receiving inductions and training from the four committee members already in post with the intention that once they are trained, the BGSIG will be able to expand the resources it can offer to members with more people on the committee to share the workload.
During the past year, The BGSIG has made continued efforts to disseminate behaviour-analytic research and clinical practice related to the problems of older adults through our social media channels. As of March 2023, the BGSIG Twitter account had 584 followers, the BGSIG Facebook page had 2337 likes, and the closed Facebook group moderated by the BGSIG committee members had 685 members (+83 members). The BGSIG website is hosted through ABAI and features a variety of content including blog articles from behavioural gerontologists, lists of relevant resources 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 behavioural gerontology. The BGSIG continues to offer case consultation groups to practitioners in the field on an as-needed basis to BGSIG members. The BGSIG has published two newsletters over the past year featuring articles from behavioural gerontologists, details of CEU opportunities related to behavioural gerontology and a spotlight on a symposium about decision-making capacity for older adults with neurocognitive disorders at ABAI’s annual conference.
The BGSIG currently has 39 members consisting of four affiliate members, 2 early career/transitional members, 4 retired/emeritus members, 18 full members and 11 student members.
Over the next year, the BGSIG intends to continue its 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. One of the biggest challenges to maintaining and increasing membership numbers is that SIG membership does not auto-renew like ABAI membership does; so more response effort is required for members to continue their BGSIG membership.
With more members on the committee, The BGSIG expects to be able to offer more events and resources related to behavioral gerontology research and practice, which we expect should increase membership rates. We will continue to send out email blasts via ABAI to remind BGSIG members to renew every September. Over the following year, the BGSIG intends to focus on developing more events and resources for members such as hosting live educational events that can then be accessed through the member’s only section of the website after the fact. The BGSIG also is in the discussion about developing a provider list on our website that lists behavioral gerontology practitioners that are available to contact regarding services for older adults. We are also developing a journal club that we hope to make available to members going forward too. We welcome all new members to join us at the BGSIG, whether you are working with older adults or just interested in learning more and supporting our work. You can join via the ABAI website through your portal or click the link on our website: bgsig.abainternational.org