Momentum Discussions

Discussions that stimulate dialogue on trends with great momentum to advance gerontology.

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The Momentum Discussions listed below were presented during the GSA 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting Online for a live audience. 


The Interrelationships Between Nutrition and Oral Health in Older Adults

Supported by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

Moderator:Rose Ann DiMaria-Ghalili, BSN,MSN,PhD, FASPEN, FAAN, FGSA

Judith Haber, New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing
Michele Saunders, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Kathryn Starr, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham VA Medical Center

The relationship between oral health and nutrition is a circular one. Without a healthy mouth to chew food and begin the digestive process, nutritional status suffers. And, without adequate nutrients, oral health often declines, muscles weaken, gum tissues become infected, bone supporting the teeth resorbs, and teeth decay and - may be eventually lost. And the process repeats. We will discuss the interrelationships between nutrition and oral health with an emphasis on older adults who undergo surgery, have cancer, or require special diets due to chronic health conditions and factors related to social determinants of health. Discussants will also examine the need for interprofessional education initiatives that reinforce care that benefits both oral health and nutrition.


The Significance of All Vaccines for Older Adults During the COVID-19 Era

Supported by GlaxoSmithKline

Moderator: Kathleen Cameron, National Council on Aging

Jason Karlawish, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Stefan Gravenstein, Brown University Center for Gerontology and Health Research
Amy Walker, Biotechnology Innovation Organization

This Momentum Discussion recognizes the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases on older adults. Panelists will discuss what is known about COVID-19 and the status of COVID-19 vaccine development. The biology of aging and age-related declines in immunity will be explored, particularly in relationship to pre-existing health conditions and the development of serious disease complications. Recommendations for maintenance of health using existing vaccines will be explained. Finally, the panelists will share their thoughts on the ethics of recruiting older people into clinical trials, particularly vaccine trials. The information shared will be useful to all who work with older adults, not just those in a healthcare setting.


Isolation During a Pandemic

Supported by AARP Foundation

Moderator: Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President, AARP Foundation

Kelly Cronin, Deputy Administrator, Innovation and Partnership, HHS Administration for Community Living
Abby Sears, CEO, OCHIN
Robert Espinoza, Vice President of Policy, PHI

Just before COVID-19 hit North America, the National Academy of Sciences released a groundbreaking consensus study, sponsored by AARP Foundation, titled, “The Health and Medical Dimensions of Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults.” In a little over a month after the study’s release, we were hit with unprecedented changes in the way we interact in our daily lives resulting in an increasing number of people facing social isolation. During this Momentum Discussion, we will revisit the study’s recommendations within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and hear how organizations have begun implementing the study’s recommendations. We will also discuss the questions we wished we had asked and how we can move forward to mitigate prolonged social isolation as the pandemic continues to disrupt the way we connect.


The Impact of Diversity on Longevity Fitness: A Life-Course Perspective

Supported by Bank of America

Moderator and Panelist: Richard W. Johnson, Urban Institute

Maricruz Rivera-Hernandez, Brown University
Diane Ty, Georgetown University
Kai R. Walker, Bank of America

Race. Place. Gender. Sexual orientation and gender identity.

When it comes to optimizing Longevity Fitness through attention to health, wealth, and social aspects of life, many Americans face intractable inequities based on the color of their skin, where they live, their sex, and who they love. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of such demographics in the cold hard realities of caseloads and mortality rates. This Momentum Discussion—based on the third in a series of GSA/Bank of America reports on people’s increasingly long lives—documents the effects of these inequities and explores the beneficial efforts of corporations and other employers to enhance diversity and inclusion.


Dementia-Related Psychosis in the Long-Term Care Setting: Challenges and Opportunities for Improvement

Supported by Acadia

Moderator: Gary W. Small, Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging, Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Gary Epstein, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Associate Professor of Medical Science, Associate Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Brown University
Joyce M. Mahoney, Regional Vice President - East Memory Care and Programming at Belmont Village
Barbara Resnick,PhD, Professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing; Co-Director, Biology and Behavior Across the Lifespan Organized Research Center; Sonya Ziporkin Gershowitz Chair in Gerontology
Chad Worz, Chief Executive of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists

Dementia-related psychosis, along with other neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) of dementia, can have a devasting impact on persons with dementia and their families. NPS are among the primary reason persons with dementia transition from the home to a long-term care facility. Yet once admitted, residents with dementia-related psychosis may face considerable stigma and fail to receive person-centered care. This panel will seek to address recent developments in clinical research and best practices in the diagnosis of and care planning for dementia-related psychosis, and opportunities to translate these into evidence-based, person-centered long-term care programming.


How Where You Live Matters: Geographic Disparities in Life Expectancy at Midlife

Supported by AARP

Moderator: Erwin Tan, Director of Thought Leadership Health, AARP

Rodney Harrell, Vice President of Family, Home and Community at the Public Policy Institute, AARP
Courtney Lyles, Associate Professor at UCSF in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and a co-Principal Investigator of the UCSF Population Health Data Initiative
Ali H. Mokdad, Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and Chief Strategy Officer for Population Health at the University of Washington
Roland Thorpe, Professor Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, faculty at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions & Co-Director Johns Hopkins Alzheimer’s Disease RCMAR

When it comes to determining how long you can expect to live geography matters. Conditions and the general environment in which people live, learn, work, play, worship and age have tremendous influence on their health and longevity. This session will discuss the causes of geographic disparities in life expectancy that are highlighted in a recently released AARP report, How Growing Geographic and Racial Disparities Inhibit the Ability to Live Longer and Healthier Lives was released in October and examines at life expectancy at age 50 from 1980 -2014 in all US counties. This report reflects a collaboration with leading researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). This discussion will focus on how many of the geographic disparities reflect on going economic inequality and systemic disparities that existed long before the arrival of COVID-19 has compounded the impact of the virus. This discussion will include thought leadership and experts on relationship between place and health from AARP, UCSF, Johns Hopkins and the University of Washington on what geocoded data can tell us about systemic disparities, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how addressing these geographic disparities can help us achieve health equity.


Obesity: Its Effect on Increasing the Risk for COVID-19 and Other Health Conditions

Supported by Novo Nordisk

Moderator: John A. Batsis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Medicine and Gillings School of Global Public Health

Shenbagam Dewar, Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan
Ted Kyle, ConscienHealth
Kathryn N. Porter Starr, Duke University School of Medicine and Durham VA Medical Center

Obesity in older adults impacts morbidity and mortality, quality of life and increases the risk of institutionalization. Weight loss interventions can effectively lead to improved physical function. Diet-alone interventions can detrimentally impact muscle and bone physiology and without interventions to affect these elements, can lead to adverse outcomes. Understanding social and nutritional issues facing older adults is essential. This session will address the physiological changes that put older adults at risk for obesity and the specific impact of obesity on chronic health conditions, including COVID-19. The panelists will also discuss the impact of stigma associated with obesity and the role of an interprofessional team in ensuring the safety of older persons with obesity.


Barriers and Opportunities Related to the Use of Telehealth with Older Adults

Supported by Eisai

Moderator: Neil Charness, William G. Chase Professor of Psychology, Director, Institute for Successful Longevity, Department of Psychology, Florida State University

Liz Hamburg, Candoo Tech
Fred A. Kobylarz, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Barbara Resnick, University of Maryland School of Nursing; Co-Director, Biology and Behavior Across the Lifespan Organized Research Center; Sonya Ziporkin Gershowitz Chair in Gerontology

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services significantly expanded payment for telehealth services and introduced related flexibilities. As a result, the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth each week increased from 14,000 before the pandemic to over 10.1 million from mid-March through early July. While telehealth, which includes telephone-based visits and virtual visits, promises both convenience and improved health outcomes for older adults, it’s not without challenges. Older adults who lack broadband access or the necessary equipment and understanding of how to use the technology, will miss out on virtual visits. In addition, questions remain about telehealth’s effectiveness and whether expanded telehealth benefits are permanent. This panel will share learnings from recent experiences using and delivering telehealth services in various settings of care.


The Need for Action: Vision and Aging

Supported by the Global Coalition on Aging

Moderator: Mike Hodin, Global Coalition on Aging

Jane Barratt, Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing
Bonnielin Swenor, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University
James Tsai, Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The panel will cover the VISION 2020 / USA publication that led to a national Call to Action from the U.S. Surgeon General to address vision loss as a national priority. The urgency of action is even more evident as we come to understand the unforeseen consequences of COVID-19 on older Americans.

The panel will discuss the current state of vision and aging, noting how cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and other diseases affect almost 30 million Americans over the age of forty and that diabetes-related retinopathy and macular edema are the leading causes of new cases of blindness in working age adults.

These numbers are expected to grow as our population ages. Because eye diseases and conditions become more common as part of the normal aging process, the number of blind and visually impaired people will double by the year 2050. The loss of vision carries a heavy toll for both individuals and society—with older adults encountering vision loss more likely to be burdened by depression, a higher risk of injury or death due to falls, loss of driving privileges, social isolation, and poverty.

The panel will also cover the economic cost of vision loss and eye disease in the US, which makes a compelling case for immediate action. Our aging population and changing demographics are expected to quintuple today’s economic toll to $717 billion a year by 2050.