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Volume 37 Number 4 Fall 2022
Activities in Geriatrics and Gerontology Education and Research
Virginia Center on Aging, VCU Department of Gerontology,
Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services



Coping with Macular Degeneration: Three Case Studies

By Ajit D. Tiwari, O.D.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a retinal eye disease that can cause central vision loss. This damage occurs on the macula, which is responsible for sharp, straight-ahead vision. AMD can affect the ability to read clearly, drive, and navigate in unfamiliar environments. Approximately 11 million people are affected by AMD in the United States with a global prevalence of approximately 170 million. 

Along with diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma, AMD is one of the leading causes of vision loss and disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the direct costs and productivity loss associated with vision disabilities are estimated to be over 35 billion dollars. Depression, diabetes, hearing impairment, stroke, falls, cognitive decline, and premature death are often associated with vision disabilities. 

Read the full case study.

From the Virginia Center on Aging and VCU Gerontology

By Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., Director, Virginia Center on Aging

There is something very special about the beginning of autumn. For me it is the vibrant colors from the falling leaves, the excited energy that comes with a new semester and the anticipation of fall festivities. I can almost smell the apple pies baking after my annual visit to the apple orchard. As we head into this new season, I am delighted to share wonderful updates and opportunities from the VCoA and Department of Gerontology.

First, we have lots of new students to welcome! This fall we are thrilled to welcome 25 new students in the MS in Gerontology and Certificate in Aging Studies programs. Our students come from a variety of different academic and practice backgrounds but they all share energy and passion for creating a world that values aging. We are so excited to share updates from our incredible students and their learning in the coming months.

We are also welcoming a new cohort of interprofessional scholars. Recognizing the benefits of offering a virtual program but yearning for a return to in-person collaboration and learning, CIRCAA unveiled a new, hybrid format for this academic year. The September kick-off welcomed a diverse group of interprofessional scholars back to the CHP building for the first time since 2020. This cohort features more gerontologists than any cohort before it who will certainly bring a fresh perspective to the discussions and activities. 

Second, our faculty and staff and bringing in record breaking grant funding to the College of Health Professions.  VCoA faculty and staff members Bert Waters, Kim Ivey, Jenni Mathews, and Laura Finch will manage the Virginia Long Term Care Clinician Network, a two-year grant funded by the Virginia Department of Health, and awarded to Dr. Christian Bergman, in the School of Medicine. The project will provide the opportunity for medical directors, physicians, and advanced practice providers who work in Virginia long-term care facilities and other congregate care settings to share best clinical practices. This peer-network is intended to be sustainable beyond the life of this project.

As well, Dr. Sarah Marrs just won a $1.3m grant from the Administration for Community Living. With this award, Sarah Marrs, Courtney O’Hara and Catherine MacDonald will work to mitigate barriers to reporting elder abuse and help link elders to systems of care, resulting in increased service utilization to improve safety and well-being

Finally, I am thrilled to share that the Virginia Center on Aging has updated our mission statement to reflect our continuing commitment to all Virginians as we all age. The VCoA mission is to advance health, well-being and equity for the elders of today and tomorrow. Our innovative research, critical education and impactful service strive to make Virginia a place where its people can thrive at every age.

Creating communities that embrace aging takes effort from each and every one of us. Thank you for being on this journey with us.

From the Commissioner, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services


Statewide Open Participation Survey for Older Virginians

By Charlotte Arbogast, M.S., Senior Policy Analyst & Regulatory Coordinator

Community members ages 60 and up! The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) invites you to take this important survey.
DARS has contracted with Polco to seek the public’s insight on the Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA). CASOA will inform the development of the next State Plan for Aging Services (October 1, 2023 – September 30, 2027), which guides the Commonwealth’s implementation of Older Americans Act programs and services and seeks to coordinate a statewide response to meeting the needs of older Virginians.
Having completed the random selection component of the CASOA survey earlier this fall, the department now encourages all older Virginians to respond to the online open participation version of the survey.

To participate in the survey, please visit by October 27, 2022.
The online survey is available in Arabic, English, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. Those who receive the open participation survey link are encouraged to participate.
In implementing the survey, Polco is committed to a strict privacy policy; they only share anonymous, combined results. Participants’ individual data and responses are never shared.
The findings from the survey will be integrated into the department’s needs assessment. The results will enable state agencies, local governments, community-based organizations, the private sector and other community members to understand more thoroughly and predict more accurately the services and resources required to serve older Virginians and their caregivers.
In addition, the department would like to encourage its network of 25 Area Agencies on Aging as well as all state and community partners serving older adults to share the open participation survey link with their internal and external networks.
For more information, or if you need assistance with survey, contact the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services at (804) 662-9310.

Tracey Gendron Wins Distinguished Service Award

Virginia Commonwealth University's 40th Annual Faculty Convocation honoring outstanding educators and researchers was held on August 31st. Tracey Gendron, director of the Virginia Center on Aging, was presented with the Distinguished Service Award. To read more about this award and all seven honorees, read the full article published by VCU News

Image from left to right: Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU; Tracey Gendron, Ph.D.; Susan Parish, Ph.D., M.S.W., Dean of VCU College of Health Professions. 

HEAR for Elder Justice

The Virginia Center on Aging (VCoA) is pleased to announce that faculty Sarah Marrs, Ph.D., and staff Courtney O’Hara and Catherine MacDonald won a $1.3 million grant from the Administration for Community Living. “Virginia HEAR: Helping Elders Access Resources” will involve partners No Wrong Door Virginia, an initiative of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, and Virginia Tech. With a focus on underserved communities, VCoA will work to mitigate barriers to reporting elder abuse and help link elders to systems of care, resulting in increased service utilization to improve safety and well-being.  For more information about the Administration for Community Living and this award, read the press release

Elder Mistreatment and the Rise of Ageism

Courtney O'Hara is the Abuse and Later Life Program Manager for the Virginia Center on Aging and the newly elected president of the Virginia Coalition for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.   Be sure to read her recently published article, Elder Mistreatment and the Rise of Ageism, in Richmond Family Magazine.  

Commonwealth of Virginia
Alzheimer's and Related Diseases Research Award Fund
2021-2022 Final Project Report Summaries

Final project reports have been submitted by investigators funded during the 2021-2022 round of competition. Read the full press release to see summaries of the projects listed below. For more information, please contact the investigators or the ARDRAF administrator, Dr. Constance Coogle.

GMU - Alicia Hong, PhD, Sojung Kim, PhD, and Emily S. Ihara, PhD
Alzheimer’s Research Inquiry and Care for Asian Americans (ARICAA): Protocol development of a culturally tailored social media-based program

VCU Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency -  J. William Kerns, MD, and Jonathan Winter, MD
Clinician perspectives regarding COVID-19’s impact on management to approaches dementia symptoms in Virginia nursing homes

VCU - Gretchen N. Neigh, PhD
Dietary Choices as Drivers of Mitochondrial Dysfunction in the Brain: Implications for Dementia

JMU Terrie Rife, PhD
Understanding the Role of Tau Isoform Variants in the Nucleus

ODU Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, PhD, Brian K. Payne, PhD, and Muge Akpinar-Elci, MD, PhD
An Examination of Isolation and Risk of Alzheimer’s Caregivers during COVID-19: Computer Use as a Security Risk or Effective Coping Tool?

Virginia Memory Project 

Did you know that an estimated 10-12% of Medicare beneficiaries in the Richmond metro area are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia?  That is the highest-ranking percentage in the region (AlzPossible Initiative, 2022). Unfortunately, there is very little data about caregiving, early memory loss, or brain health risk needs across Virginia. VCoA's Virginia Memory Project is trying to change that.  You are invited to support this project by taking this two-minute survey about your brain health. Please share this link with your fellow Virginians.  Help us advocate for funding and programs in the areas that need it most!  

Connect with Students Passionate about Health Services

Are you or your organization seeking meaningful ways to connect with students passionate about health services? Students enrolled in the VCU College of Health Professions Bachelor of Sciences, Health Services degree are required to complete one service-learning experience requirement, in association with one of their courses: Healthcare Career Development and Planning in Allied Health Professions. 

Become a partner today! Partner agencies are needed to establish these meaningful experiences with! There are a variety of options for you and/or your organization to partner with our program and students, including guest lectures and service learning. If you are interested in partnering with VCU's College of Health Professions, please complete the Partner Request Form.  For more information, contact Jen Pryor at

Trauma-Informed Culture Change Initiative Receives Funding

Longevity Project for a greater Richmond (LPgR), an initiative of VCU Gerontology and Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging, is excited to share news of their two-year, $150,000 grant to lead a Trauma-Informed Culture Change initiative with long-term services and supports (LTSS) agencies in the greater Richmond region. Funding from Richmond Memorial Health Foundation will allow LPgR and Senior Connections to help address mental health needs of elders, loved ones, staff, and volunteers. 

Over the next few months, LPgR aims to recruit four to six aging services organizations to form a learning circle to study, assess, and plan as they build their capacity toward becoming resilient, trauma-informed organizations. Stay tuned for more information about how you and your organization can get involved. Please reach out to Zoe Klug with questions or to learn more at

VCU Gerontology Student Updates

Check out VCU Gerontology News, featuring information for students, upcoming events, staff and faculty news, job postings, and more.

The October issue has a beautiful article from VCU Gerontology alum Emily Foreman: "When I began graduate school with the VCU Gerontology department, I felt like I had come home. I found myself engaged with intrinsically passionate faculty who truly cared and loved their department's mission. Faculty who wanted to see each student succeed and find their unique path in the field of aging services while exploring and celebrating all the side roads and stops along the way, much like our life journey. I have often stated that this program enhanced and elevated my appreciation and understanding of the overall life process while simultaneously increasing my passion for the field of gerontology, they both went hand in hand in so many ways." Read more in the October issue of VCU Gerontology News,

Are you considering a 15-credit certificate in aging studies or the 30-credit master's degree in gerontology? Let's talk about your goals. Contact Jen Pryor to schedule a conversation:

Diversity Equity & Inclusion Newsletter

For many, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) can feel overwhelmingly complex. The Virginia Geriatric Education Center produces a monthly newsletter that attempts to clarify important DEI concepts with brief, digestible resources.  The October Issue is now available, along with past issues, on the VCoA website

For more information about this newsletter, contact Chuck Alexander at

Calendar of Events

November 2-6, 2022. Embracing Our Diversity. Enriching Our Discovery. Reimagining Aging. Gerontological Society of America's 2022 Annual Scientific Meeting. Indianapolis, IN. 

November 14-16, 2022The Care Colloquium Conference: National Thought Leadership on Caregiving. The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, Roanoke. 

March 27-30, 2023.  On Aging 2023: To Unite. To Empower. To Champion. Together. Annual conference of the American Society on Aging. Atlanta, GA. 

April 11-15, 2023. Advancing Effective Solutions: The Interplay of Social Determinants of Health and Health Disparities. The Southern Gerontological Society's 44th Annual Meeting and Conference. Hilton Norfolk the Main, Norfolk. 

May 4-6, 2023American Geriatrics Society 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting. Long Beach, CA. 

May 9-10, 2023. Shaping the Future of Aging in Virginia: Informed. Inclusive. Innovative. Virginia Governor's Conference on Aging. Richmond Marriott Downtown, Richmond.  

May 24-26, 2023. 27th Annual Conference of the Virginia Coalition for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Delta Hotels by Marriott, Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites, Virginia Beach. 
Thank you for reading the Fall 2022 issue of Age in Action!
Virginia Center on Aging
VCU Gerontology
Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

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