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Professional Organizations - U.s. Professional Associations

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American Geriatrics Society. The AGS was established in 1942 to promote effective, high-quality research that addresses the health care problems of older adults; to create and expand geriatric training centers; to expand and implement geriatric education and training for physicians, nurses, other health professionals, and the general public; to ensure access to geriatric medical care for older persons; and to pursue a vigorous public policy effort. Since 1952 the formation of state affiliates has been encouraged. Since the 1980s, the AGS focus on education has been reflected in the Teachers of Geriatric Medicine section, the Fellows in Training program, and a Board Review course. The AGS holds an annual meeting for its sixty-five hundred members that is accredited for continuing medical education and makes available audiocassettes of annual meeting presentations. Since 1983 the AGS has published the monthly Journal of the American Geriatric Society. It also produces the bimonthly AGS News, the biennial Geriatric Review Syllabus, and The Directory of Fellowship Programs in Geriatric Medicine, covering U.S. and Canadian programs. Other publications include position papers on topics of interest to the membership, such as Medicare subsidies for medical school education, and a membership directory.

American Society on Aging. Nearly ten thousand public- and private-sector professionals in aging belong to ASA, which got its start as the Western Gerontological Society in 1954. It seeks to foster a sense of community among those working with and on behalf of the elderly; to provide quality training; to promote research and disseminate knowledge; to facilitate innovative approaches to service delivery; to promote a positive image of aging; to influence social and public policies by sponsoring debates on emerging issues; to enhance and strengthen the involvement of ethnic and racial minorities; and to collaborate with other organizations to enhance the well-being of older persons and their families.

The ASA is organized around several affinity groups, such as business, religion, and lesbians and gays. Its annual meeting is held every other year in California in March and takes place in California every other year. In addition, ASA sponsors a summer series of workshops, regional seminars, a fall conference, and public forums in various parts of the country. Publications include a quarterly, practice-oriented journal, Generations; Aging Today, a bimonthly newspaper; Inside ASA, a semiannual newsletter for members; and specialized publications, such as Critical Debates in an Aging Society. The ASA annually recognizes individuals who have contributed to the organization and to the cause of aging in society, older ASA members who exemplify the contributions that persons over age sixty-five can make, student researchers, media leaders, exemplary practitioners, and businesses with programs and products benefiting older adults.

Gerontological Society of America. An outcome of a series of symposia funded by the Macy Foundation, the GSA began in 1945 as the American Gerontological Society. It was created to promote the scientific study of aging in public health, mental hygiene, the science and art of medicine, the cure of diseases, and the nature and problems of aging. A second objective was to encourage the exchange of knowledge about aging among scientists, practitioners, and decision makers working in the field. The GSA was Table 1 Major characteristics of professional organizations in aging SOURCE: Author Table 1 (cont.) Continued from previous page instrumental in the creation of the National Institute on Aging and of federal support for graduate and postdoctoral training programs. More than sixty-five hundred members affiliate with four sections—Biological Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Behavioral and Social Sciences, and Social Research, Policy and Practice—as well as with numerous formal and informal interest groups, such as Humanities and Aging and Technology and Aging, that provide opportunities for members to discuss topics of mutual interest. The GSA also has a very active student program that sponsors scientific sessions and social events at the annual meeting held each November. With the creation of the National Academy on an Aging Society in 1995, the GSA has undertaken a proactive role as a national forum for policy analysis and debate through The Public Policy and Aging Report.

The GSA has an extensive publications program. The Journal of Gerontology, begun in 1946 as a single journal focused on basic research, became four separate journals in 1988. In 1961 The Gerontologist was created to feature articles on applied research and policy. A new series on chronic and disabling conditions, published by the National Academy on an Aging Society, was begun in 2000. A monthly newsletter, Gerontology News, and a membership directory are provided to members. In addition, the GSA bestows annual awards (e.g., the Donald Kent and Joseph Freeman awards) on members who have conducted quality research that impacts practice and education. The GSA also has a Fellows program for persons who have contributed to it and to the field, and Minority Fellowships for students.

In 1999 the GSA incorporated the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. AGHE had been created in 1974 to provide a network for two- and four-year college and university instructional programs and to improve the quality of gerontology and geriatric programs in institutions of higher learning. Its more than three hundred members are institutionally based. Major publications include Core Principles and Outcomes of Gerontological, Geriatric and Aging Studies Instruction, the AGHExchange newsletter, subject bibliographies (e.g., public policy), and a national directory of instructional programs in aging. An annual meeting, faculty development workshops, and sponsorship of merit scholarships and a national honor society, Sigma Phi Omega, also are part of AGHE's activities. In the late 1990s AGHE developed a Fellows program and its Programs of Merit as a means of evaluating the quality of instructional programs.

The National Council on Aging. Originally funded by the Ford Foundation and established as the National Committee on Aging in 1950, the NCoA took its current name in 1960. Its mission has been to change attitudes that denigrate the contributions of older people. The NCoA is committed to improving services for elders and promoting the dignity, self-determination, well-being, and productivity of older adults as individuals and within familial and community contexts. Its more than seven thousand members are drawn from professionals and volunteers who provide senior services.

The NCoA is composed of many constituent units, each with its own leadership, structure, and programs. The first was the National Institute of Senior Centers, which has promoted standards, guidelines, and accreditation for senior centers. Since 1971 eight other units have been added. Generally designated as institutes or centers, these units conduct applied research, training, and advocacy on issues such as aging in rural areas, adult day care, older worker employment services, and health promotion. The NCoA's David W. Meyer Institute for Applied Gerontology is designed to close the gap between research and practice. The NCoA also is one of ten national sponsors of the Senior Community Services Employment Program, which provides work opportunities for low-income persons aged over fifty-five. It also has played a major role in educating seniors about Medicare+Choice options and created several intergenerational programs (e.g., Family Friends) in which senior volunteers work with severely disabled children, and Foster Grandparents. With the Child Welfare League it created Generations United to strengthen intergenerational linkages.

The NCoA holds regional conferences and an annual meeting, usually in the spring in Washington, D.C. It publishes Abstracts in Social Gerontology, the quarterly Perspectives on Aging, and the bimonthly NCoA Network. It provides training materials, videos, and other instructional materials for its members and the public.

Other societies. Mention should be made of professional organizations at the state and regional levels and of special-focus groups. Among the former are statewide associations such as the California Council on Gerontology and Geriatrics and the Minnesota Society on Aging. Regional gerontological associations include the Midwest, Southern, and Southwest societies. New organizations, such as the Association of Private Geriatric Care Managers and the National Association of Service Coordinators, reflect growing professional specialization. A few publish journals (such as the Southwest Journal on Aging), but their primary outreach efforts are annual meetings, newsletters, and membership directories.

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