Chicago Bridge at Aging in America 2011

During the last week in April, more than 4,000 professionals in the field of aging convened in San Francisco for Aging in America, the American Society on Aging’s annual conference.  I was honored to be one of those professionals, representing the Chicago Bridge in meetings, presentations, and receptions throughout the week. It’s easy to feel small and lost in a crowd so big, filled with professionals from all segments of the aging network: from service organizations to research institutions, from hospitals to community agencies, from private practice to government administrations.  Luckily, I was surrounded by many Chicago Bridge members and supporters, making the conference more exciting than overwhelming.

Student and Emerging Professional Peer Group

My conference started with a peer group, a roundtable discussion of current topics in aging.  The Chicago Bridge was invited to help facilitate the discussion, together with representatives from other cities, including GenPhilly, Legacy from San Francisco, ASA’s Students to Emerging Professionals (STEP) interest group, and ASA’s New Ventures in Leadership program.  The room was packed (standing room only!) with Bridge members, students, and emerging professionals from all over the country and world.  We tackled big questions including finding jobs, making a career change into aging, and linking with peers for those who don’t live in a city with a robust aging network like Chicago has.  We ended by brainstorming new ways ASA can support and connect students and emerging professionals across the nation to each other and to established professionals, both in person and online.

Chicago Bridge Mentorship Program Presentation

Immediately after the peer group, Kristen Pavle and I rushed to give a conference workshop on the Chicago Bridge Mentorship Program.  We explained how the program came to be, shared lessons from the pilot, and described the improvements we’ve made for this second year of the project.  Kristen and I were joined by Phyllis Mitzen, a mentor from last year’s program, who shared her experience and talked broadly about the program’s contribution to the field of aging.  It was an honor to present to an engaged and excited audience (even if they asked some tough questions).

Student and Emerging Professional Reception

On Thursday night, we got the opportunity to relax at the Student and Emerging Professional Reception, generously hosted by ASA and the Social Work Leadership Institute at the New York Academy of Medicine. This was a casual forum for meeting other emerging professionals in the field and reconnecting with friends and colleagues who have relocated to other cities.  This event was especially exciting because it was open to all emerging professionals in the San Francisco area, even those not attending Aging in America, allowing them to benefit from the conference even though they could not attend. Chicago Bridge helped host a similar event at the conference last year with huge success.  After the similar success of this year’s event, I hope this will become a mainstay of the conference.

The Chicago Bridge Member Presentations

I certainly wasn’t the only Chicago Bridge member at the conference.  Our members and supporters presented on numerous topics every day of the conference.  We would love to hear from you if you attended. If you presented, please leave a comment and let us know about your workshop.  If you attended, we’d love to hear about your experience, too. Special thanks to Arlene Wanetick, Chicago Bridge Blog Editor. And thanks to Dani Robles for sharing your picture with us.

One Comment

  • Arlene Wanetick

    I too attended the Aging in America conference, and it was so fantastic to “be in the room” with so many inspired, inspiring, and committed people doing this important work. Ken Dychtwald (Age Wave) gave an impassioned speech about the economic, political, and moral necessity of prioritizing the search for a cure for Alzheimers that had everyone applauding thunderously and almost rising up out of their seats. I attended “Creativity Matters,” an all day seminar sponsored by the NCCA where among other things, I witnessed a dance performance about an old woman letting go of her past that brought tears streaming down my face. I met a woman from the Bay Area who worked in Silicon Valley at the start of the Internet that said she hasn’t felt this much energy and innovation in the air since those days, and was very excited about what is happening in gerontology. And I met two young women from Shanghai at the Students & Emerging Professionals Reception who were delightful. I found the experience to be very positive, supporting my decision to choose this path for my encore career and I will definitely be attending next year in D.C.

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