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  • Writer's pictureSophia Webber and Taylor Gray

Ageism and Intersectionality: A Conversation Between Older Adults and Researchers (Pt. 1)

Bio photos of guest speaker and hosts of Aging PCOR Learning Collaborative podcast
Left to Right: Dr. Paul Nash, Sophia Webber, Taylor Gray


In this episode, Sophia and Taylor take a backseat and allow members of our older adults subcommittee to ask the questions. The older adult subcommittee is a group of older adults who lend their valuable guidance to the Aging PCOR Learning Collaborative. We were lucky enough to interview Dr. Paul Nash, a faculty member in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California; one of the premier Gerontology departments in the nation. Some of the main topics covered in these episodes are ageism and intersectionality. This episode is a great example of how allowing older adults to have a spot at the table can lead to some amazing outcomes! Stay tuned for part two!

Taylor’s Reflections

Hey there! My name is Taylor Gray. I am a 3rd year PhD student in Gerontology at UMass Boston and a student representative on the Aging PCOR Learning Collaborative project. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post, I hope you enjoy it and learn something new!

This was such an amazing podcast episode. Listening back, I can tell that Sophia and I have become more comfortable behind the microphone. We had such an amazing guest for this episode, Dr. Paul Nash. He’s a brilliant researcher and an excellent representative of the Gerontology department at the University of Southern California. He has a great deal of knowledge and experiences, but in this talk he provided scaffolding in the areas of ageism and intersectionality: two very hot topics in Gerontology and the social sciences as a whole.

For this two-part series, we let the older adults take the reins and ask Dr. Nash thought provoking questions! It was amazing to witness the direct interactions between the older adults on our SubCommittee and Dr. Nash. Witnessing the direct interactions between the older adults on our SubCommittee and Dr. Nash reinforced the idea that an intermediary between the older adult and researcher is not needed. In other words, older adults need to be able to easily and honestly speak with those who drive research about their population.

Dr. Nash makes an excellent point about attitudes of older adults and the ways in which these attitudes reinforce ageist ideas. He is very realistic in his explanation. It is not necessary to see “older adults jumping out of an aeroplane” to combat ageism. Instead, it starts with understanding that they have full lives no matter what they do, and that having them “sit at the table” is essential to being able to serve them best. I appreciate this point, as we are often exposed to these extreme examples of able-bodied older adults who can do amazing things. These select few are often highlighted as proof that older adults are still capable, but it can set quite unreasonable expectations.

Another point Dr. Nash makes that I find important is that “Our role as academics is to provide clarity, and one way to ensure that is to include older adults at every level of research.” I had never considered the idea that academics are “bringers of clarity” and I very much like that concept. I have had many experiences as a student representative on this project where clarity was produced; either through older adults helping us to be more clear with our tools and mission, or through our project providing clarity to older adults about research methods (and concepts like intersectionality and ageism).

Overall, I think this is one of the most important episodes we produced. It is chock full of knowledge and engaging conversation about topics that are relevant to both older adults and social scientists. It is also, in itself, an example of how engaging older adults can lead to great outcomes. Without the questions posed by our SubCommittee members, we would have asked Dr. Nash questions that WE thought were important. Now, we are sure that this episode will be of interest to other older adults, which should make it of greater interest to students and researchers!

Be sure to read/listen to part 2 of this episode, where more of our SubCommittee members will pose more difficult and intriguing questions to Dr. Nash. Also, be sure to click the buttons below to view our project webpage, check out our video series (about benefits of engagement), and join the Aging Research Network.

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