Faculty Spotlight

Gerontology | May 07, 2013
Faculty Spotlight

Management of Aging Services professor Joan Hyde teaches the Capstone and Services Delivery Issues in Aging. She is the CEO of Ivy Hall Senior Living and was the first executive director of the MA Alzheimer's Association.

You have a very successful career in the field of aging services. Can you describe some of the milestones of your career? Specifically, how/why you entered the field of aging services? Influential people and positions that were key to your success? Your current position?

In 1980, when both my grandmother, Anna Schwartz, and my husband’s grandmother, Mary Hickey, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease I reached out to Dr. Marott Sinex and the newly formed Alzheimer’s Association.  As a volunteer I ran one of the first support groups, computerized our mailing list of 230 people, and created the original newsletter.  In 1982 I was named Executive Director and found my love for serving older people, especially those with dementia.  Along with Meyer Saxe, Mel Shapiro and many others we successfully we were able to raise the funds needed to make the Association a vibrant professional organization.  Other highlights from that era included working with Lillian Glickman, Ellen Birchander and many others then at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs on the Alzheimer’s Task Force, and with Frank Ollivierre, then regional director of the Administration on Aging  (later Secretary of Elder Affairs) on a $500,000 AoA grant to foster cooperation among formal and informal networks to ensure that they were able to serve people with dementia.  Professor Nina Silverstein, then just completing her Doctorate at Brandeis, served as the outside evaluator on that project, and became a lifelong colleague and friend.

The next chapter of my professional life started in 1986, when I left the Alzheimer’s Association.  Scott Bass, the founding director of the Gerontology Institute gave me a desk, a phone, a title as Senior Policy Analyst, and the freedom to develop new research projects in the then nascent fields of senior housing and dementia care.  Some of my early funded projects included a study of nursing home oversight to make recommendations to the US Congress regarding the regulation Special Care Alzheimer Units, and a Farnsworth funded study of senior housing needs throughout Greater Boston.  Nina Silverstein worked together on an early project on home adaptation for households with a person with cognitive impairment. During this time I also founded Elder Environs, a consulting firm that assisted organizations in the zoning, financing, market research and services of seniors housing development, and also worked for a nursing home chain as their Vice President for Dementia Services.

In 1990 I started to collaborate with John Zeisel, a leader in senior housing design and in 1992 we co-founded Hearthstone Alzheimer’s Care, developing the first assisted living residence for people with dementia in Massachusetts. We also, through our research division, did groundbreaking research on dementia care environments and technology.  John continues to operate Hearthstone and continues to be a thought leader in person-centered dementia services, including engagement in the arts. While at Hearthstone I had the privilege of serving on both the national Assisted Living Federation of America and the Mass-ALFA boards, as well as on the board of the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.  I can only say that many of my lifelong friendships began with my contacts with the many wonderful professionals with whom I have served over the years.
In 2006, after leaving Hearthstone, I founded Ivy Hall Senior Living, which consults to seniors housing and care organizations as well as manages both traditional and special assisted living, and now serve on the Empire State Assisted Living board as well as the vice president of the Massachusetts Gerontological Association.

Do you have advice for students who are just beginning a career in Aging Services?
Yes, do what you love.  This is such a and growing rich field, with a niche for everyone.  Even if you have to start as a volunteer, as you prove yourself you will make a name for yourself and become a valued professional.

How does your professional experience influence your teaching style? What is it about this program and its students that inspire you?
I love teaching in this program.  The students are all adult learners with a passion for what they do. Many are already working in Aging Services and others come with solid backgrounds in other fields such as finance, marketing or human resources.  Each class is an opportunity for us to collaborate in building on each others experiences and expertise. 

As my students will tell you, my emphasis is on work that is useful.  Never write a paper just to have something to hand in – think of each project you undertake in this program as potentially adding new information, a new perspective or idea to our field.  What is so exciting is that in fact many of the Capstone projects have done just that – given a community the information they need to approve zoning for a seniors project; developed a training program to help health professionals to better serve clients or another training to support workers who care for people at the end of their lives.  One of my favorites is the project that is helping low income seniors get incontinence products and more importantly to advocate for coverage for these products. And along the way, so many students, as they reached out to get first hand information for their work here in the program, have made contacts that help them move forward in their careers when they finish their Masters Degrees.

PS  I love that this is an online program.  I travel around the country for my work, and wherever I am I can correspond or talk with students and both they and I can work at any time of day or night as the inspiration strikes us!

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