Aging Studies Professor Presides Over Online Conference, Finds Hope in the Scholarship


In a year of challenges like no other, School of Aging Studies Professor Kathryn Hyer found a reason for optimism in the diverse array of research being presented at this year’s Gerontological Society of America research conference. 

As the 2020 GSA President, Hyer presided over the conference earlier this month. It was GSA’s 75th annual meeting, expected to be held in Philadelphia, PA, but transitioned to an online format because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The science presented by the doctors, nurses, social workers, economists, educators, demographers, humanities scholars, and policy experts, as well as the gerontologists and others who devote their lives to research on aging will “move the field forward and ultimately enhance the lives of people everywhere,” Hyer said in her opening remarks. 

The conference included more than 40 presentations from USF School of Aging Studies faculty and students.

Hyer described the key role GSA has played in advocating for research on aging over the decades, noting it helped lead the effort to establish the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health. And she lauded the productivity of GSA scholars in their recent contributions to the understanding of COVID-19, which has had a devastating and disproportionate effect on older adults.  

This year’s GSA conference included 300 symposia, 450 papers, and 1,500 posters authored by scholars from around the world. The USF contributions covered a range of topics that reflected the School of Aging Studies' interdisciplinary strengths. The topics included caregiving, sleep health, cognitive function, mental health, end-of-life care, quality across the continuum of long-term care, and disaster preparedness for older adults.   

This year's GSA theme was “Turning 75: Why Age Matters.” Its aim was to communicate that age is more than a chronological marker, Hyer said. Individually and collectively, it is a defining characteristic of the human experience. And she challenged scholars to think broadly about the meaning and purpose of their work and why it matters to older adults and to society.  

Go here for more about GSA.