Gerontology Honor Society Expands, Plans Year Ahead

Sigma Phi Omega (SPO) is the national academic honor society in gerontology, for professionals who work with or on behalf of older persons. The UMBC chapter of SPO, Delta Lambda, has continued to grow, thanks to the strength of UMBC’s sociology, gerontology and Management of Aging Services programs.

At a recent induction ceremony welcoming new members, the group also honored graduating member Susan Hannum, who pioneered Delta Lambda’s annual senior center “Food Drop.” Continuing volunteer activities with local senior centers and organizations remains a primary goal for the year ahead. The society also plans to connect with Washington D.C.-area colleagues in the field to increase activism and advocacy related to aging and the life course.

Delta Lambda new inductees, May 2013

Delta Lambda new inductees, May 2013

Seth Messinger, Sociology and Anthropology, on WTOP

As injured survivors of the Boston bombing start their long and challenging road to recovery, Washington D.C.’s WTOP interviewed UMBC’s Seth D. Messinger yesterday on the topic of rehabilitation following traumatic limb loss.

Messinger, an associate professor of anthropology who works primarily with service members, notes, “the question is whether or not civilian patients are going to be able to have the kind of time in therapy or in rehab that military patients take for granted.” He also highlights the financial hardship that the recovery process might place on victims and their families, remarking, “It’s not only the individual who’s injured who then steps out of work, but also a caregiver.”

Seth Messinger, Sociology and Anthropology, in The Boston Globe

Seth MessingerToday’s Boston Globe published a letter by Seth D. Messinger, associate professor in UMBC’s Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, in the opinion series “Voices on the Bombings.” Messinger, a medical anthropologist, is an expert on recovery from traumatic limb loss, specifically among military service members. In “The Need for Strong Rehabilitation Services” he writes,

Military patients with traumatic limb loss take part in a comprehensive rehabilitation program that provides them with surgical and medical care, physical and occupational therapy, and a wide variety of prosthetic limbs as well as opportunities to use them in a diverse array of sporting and recreational activities. Observers of the military’s physical rehabilitation program cannot help but be impressed by the extraordinary results achieved by patients, many of whom go on to attain a degree of physical functioning that approximates their pre-injury abilities. […] Does the civilian health care system provide access to the kind of care that has been so successful with military patients?

Read the full letter through The Boston Globe.

Ann Christine Frankowski, Center for Aging Studies, in the Washington Blade

The Washington Blade today highlights a talk presented by Ann Christine Frankowski, associate research scientist and associate director of UMBC’s Center for Aging Studies, and Imani Woody, of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), on challenges facing older LGBT people.

Frankowski’s work examines autonomy, independence and freedom for older adults, with a focus on minorities, especially sexual minorities. The article notes:

An estimated 1.4 to 3.8 million LGBT people in the U.S. are over the age of 65 with the number expected to double by 2030. In pursuing her research, Frankowski found that “there is no discussion of sexuality, no talk about sex. People are treated asexually, and the question of sexual orientation is totally ignored.” In addition, [assisted living] staff members, with whom there is a high turnover rate, do not respect individual choices, and supervision of these staff members is inadequate. As a result, many LGBT older adults are forced to return to the closet to remain safe.

To learn more about this issue, read the full article in the Washington Blade.

Center for Aging Studies Receives NIA Grant for Autonomy Research

UMBC’s Center for Aging Studies has received a 17-month grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to expand the research project “Autonomy in Assisted Living: A Cultural Analysis.” This grant extends a four-year ethnographic study of autonomy to include dementia care units affiliated with three of the sites in the parent grant. The Principal Investigators of this research are Professor Robert L. Rubinstein and Associate Research Scientist Ann Christine Frankowski. The research team includes ethnographer Amanda D. Peeples and GRA Colleen R. Bennett.

Ann Christine Frankowski, Autonomy symposium

Ann Christine Frankowski speaks about the study at a symposium earlier this year.

Seth Messinger, Sociology and Anthropology, in the New York Times

Seth MessingerSeth D. Messinger, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, commented in today’s New York Times on the long-term process of recovering from limb loss, in the wake of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Messinger told Times reporter James Dao that training for athletics gives amputees a clear way of measuring recovery incrementally. “Rehab for traumatic limb loss is not a short thing, and patients want to know what they have to do next,” he said. “A sports model offers people a set of stages. You’ll walk between parallel bars, then walk with canes, then learn to run.”

He also cautioned, however, that a sports model of recovery is not comprehensive and it can fail to address issues like PTSD and anxieties about future employment.

In addition to his work at UMBC, Messinger is the director of qualitative research for the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Gerontology Honor Society Gives Back to Local Seniors

Delta Lambda chapter Secretary Alida Loinaz at the St. Patrick’s Day party.

Delta Lambda chapter Secretary Alida Loinaz

Sigma Phi Omega (SPO) is the national academic honor society in gerontology, for professionals who work with or on behalf of older persons. The UMBC chapter of SPO, Delta Lambda, has been tremendously active this year with volunteer activities, nurturing an ongoing relationship with Catholic Charities of Maryland, specifically two independent senior living apartment buildings near UMBC: DePaul House and St. Joachim House.

Delta Lambda has been assisting Congregate Housing Services (CHS) with a project to interview residents about their personal journeys coming to live at DePaul and St. Joachim, as well as their experiences utilizing the CHS program. These stories help to personalize the CHS program, which facilitates continued program funding at the local and state levels. Member Jennifer Howard-Doering has also led weekly computer classes for residents, helping the seniors learn to use email and other online tools.

Delta Lambda SPO_Kathy Humber Jennifer Howard-Doering

Delta Lambda VP Kathy Humber and member Jennifer Howard-Doering

Finally, Delta Lambda hosted a festive St. Patrick’s Day party for residents in mid-March (see photos) and is planning an annual Senior Prom and summer barbeque.

To learn more about this work, contact Delta Lambda at Thanks to this tremendous group of gerontology students for giving back to our senior community!