"You never stop learning about yourself and the world when you work with older adults," Abramson says. "It's up to us within universities to give students the exposure to some exciting areas they don't know about, such as aging."
She is doing this through a collaborative research project with Martha Siegel, associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Interior Design. The pair received a 2012 Institutional Support for Research and Creativity grant to study "Stories Construct Designs: An Intergenerational and Multidisciplinary Approach to Keeping Seniors in Their Homes." Their project teams students from multiple disciplinesinterior design, architecture, occupational therapy, communication arts, marketing, and mental health counselingto design living spaces for older adults.
"The objective is to use a person-centered approach to design," Abramson says. "It's incorporating the emotional needs of the person and their life story into the design."
In addition, Abramson runs the Center's annual Vitality in Aging Contest and introduced a brown bag lunch series in spring 2012 to engage faculty and students in aging topics. The first speaker was psychotherapist Robert Schwalbe, author of Sixty, Sexy, and Successful.
Her message is all the more urgent given U.S. population data. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the year 2010 saw a 53 percent increase from 1990 in people aged 100 or more when compared with 1990 figures. The department's Administration on Aging also estimates that more than one in every eight (about 13 percent of the U.S. population) is an older American aged 65 or more.
Abramson sees opportunities for aging education both within and outside NYIT. As former board president of the National Center for Creative Aging, she rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ to mark the organization's "Beautiful Minds" campaign, which showcased the inspirational stories of people over 60.
What hooked Abramson into studying aging? An advanced psychology course taken at CUNY-Queens College that entailed a 60-hour placement in a nursing home.
"I really loved the population," she says. "They later hired me, and I worked there part-time through the rest of college."
Another inspiration was her late grandmother, who lived to the age of 98.
"She was a flapper girl ahead of her time and an amazing person," Abramson says. "Looking back, I think having a grandmother like her set the stage for where I am today."
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