Danielle Waldron

Q&A with Danielle A. Waldron, MS, from the University of Massachusetts Boston in Taunton, Massachusetts.

waldronMeet Danielle.

"If self-doubt or anxiety sneaks up on you, try focusing on how grateful you are for the opportunities in front of you. I believe that gratefulness is the antidote for negative energy!"

Q: Tell us a little about what you are doing right now.
A: I am a PhD Candidate in Gerontology working on my dissertation, Aging with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Analysis of Physical Activity Engagement. I defended my dissertation proposal in June and am currently writing my results chapter.

Q: Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments?
A: I recently completed a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s E.K. Shriver Center, where I received intensive training on health and social aspects of disability. I am also presenting on social isolation and aging with autism at the ESPO Presidential Symposium this year at GSA.

Q: Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference?
A: Dr. Elizabeth Dugan (my dissertation chair), Dr. Caitlin Coyle, and Dr. Jennifer Hefele are my incredible mentors! They have shared their content expertise with me, taught me how to research with integrity, and offered unending support along each step of this long academic journey.

Q: What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging?
A: My motivation to study aging with lifelong disability is my sister, Emily—or as I like to say, my “roommate”—yes, we live together in our childhood home with our parents or… “landlords” if you will! Emily happens to have Down syndrome and autism. She works very hard each day without complaint and inspires me to be a better person. I often wonder what will happen to Emily (and those like Emily) as she ages into systems ill-equipped to manage her health and social needs. This is why I study aging with lifelong disability—to help create a world where people with all abilities can live and thrive during each stage of their lives, particularly late life.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research?
A: There have been many! Perhaps my favorite experience in gerontology is the annual Gerontology Holiday Card Project at UMass Boston. Each year we collect holiday greeting cards from the community (i.e. schools, families, community dwelling older adults, etc.) and deliver them to nursing home and rest home residents throughout Massachusetts. The project spreads joy across generations, and it’s been very fulfilling to start this project and watch it grow larger each year!

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA. Which Section do you belong to?
A: I became a member of GSA when I enrolled in my PhD program in AY 2015-2016. I wanted to connect with the wide network of professionals in gerontology and learn about current policy and research developments in the field. I belong to SRPP, where I am the outgoing junior ESPO representative.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA is a wonderful community of aging researchers offering many opportunities for collaboration. GSA provides a platform for researchers to share their most recent work and receive feedback from other professional in the field. By working together at GSA, we can advance the state of the science in gerontology and ultimately, help improve the lives of older adults.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?
A: If self-doubt or anxiety sneaks up on you, try focusing on how grateful you are for the opportunities in front of you. I believe that gratefulness is the antidote for negative energy!

Want to ask Danielle a question? Contact her on GSA Connect!

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