UF professor honored with national award for research into successful aging
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Gerontological Society of America has honored a University of Florida professor with its most distinguished award for an academic whose research writings advance the well-being of older Americans.
Stephen Golant, a professor of geography with a specialization in gerontology, is the recipient of the Richard Kalish Award, which recognizes innovative publications on aging in the behavioral and social sciences. The award presentation will take place Nov. 16 at GSA’s 65th Annual Scientific Meeting in San Diego.
“Gerontologists and human development researchers have always investigated why older people with particular personalities and demographic characteristics age better than others, why they’re happier, and why they’re healthier,” Golant said. “My research, on the other hand, tries to understand what role the places people live in — their dwellings, neighborhoods, and communities — have on their ability to age successfully.”
Golant’s recent paper in the Journal of Aging Studies describes a theory, or model, he constructed that assesses whether the emotional responses of aging adults to their residential and care environments are compatible with their needs and goals.
He measures well-being by exploring whether older adults feel competent, in control, and comfortable in their residential or care environments, and therefore achieve what Golant refers to as “residential normalcy.”
Golant has spent decades examining how older Americans who do not feel as if they are in their comfort or mastery zones cope in subsidized housing, assisted-living centers, and communities throughout America’s suburbs and rural areas.
“For example, a widow who lives in a rural setting may enjoy her friends, and a simple way of life,” Golant said. “On the other hand, this woman has a severe case of arthritis in her knees and doing things around the house has become too difficult and reaching her doctors has become problematic. She no longer feels competent and in control of her life or environment.”
In an alternative scenario, an older adult may live in a nursing home and feel a sense of mastery because his self-care needs are all addressed by a concerned staffer; however, that adult may not feel “at home” in this unfamiliar and institutional setting.
Achieving residential normalcy where older people both enjoy where they live but also feel in control of their lives and environment is the ideal, Golant said.
“If we create living environments that are sensitive to the needs of older people, then even older people who have experienced mobility declines and social losses can enjoy their abodes.”
Ensuring the residential normalcy of aging-in-place older Americans is especially critical because they are moving less frequently than ever before.
“Unfortunately, the residential settings of most aging adults are emotional battlefields—they have split personalities, because they elicit both very favorable and unfavorable feelings at the same time,” he said.
- Claudia Adrien, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Stephen Golant, 352-392-0494 ext. 218