Jan Mutchler, a professor of gerontology at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, has earned the 2016 Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service.
Mutchler created and directs the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging where she combines service, research, and teaching to deliver a broad array of public service through research, publications, and presentations in academic and policymaking settings. She and her staff also work directly with municipalities, non-government organizations, and other agencies across the Commonwealth to understand and address the needs of their communities during a time of unparalleled growth in the senior population.
Academic colleagues, students, and community partners contributed to the nomination, calling her “an exemplar of the public scholar” and “the leading scholar in Massachusetts, helping communities understand and prepare for the demographic changes ahead.”
Professor Mutchler and her team have worked with the City of Boston to conduct extensive outreach to gather and analyze the input of thousands of seniors via community meetings and surveys, as part of the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Cities initiative. Colleagues wrote, “this extensive effort to record the concerns, desires, and aspirations of Boston’s seniors for their city is unique among major cities in the U.S. … It reflects Jan’s qualities as an investigator—her humility, the respect she accords students and subjects, and a genuine desire to hear what others have to say.”
Mutchler’s scholarship and service extend to the national arena as well. Gerontologists have long known that the federal poverty level is outdated and an especially inaccurate indicator of older adults’ self-support capability, as it fails to take into account their specific health and housing needs. Mutchler created the Elder Economic Security Index to calculate the true cost of living for older adults, using a unique market basket of goods and services they consume. The index adjusts on a county-by-county basis for the entire country and identifies differences in economic hardship between subgroups of older adults based on factors including geographic location and residential setting. Advocates, NGOs, government agencies, and other academic researchers are using it as a realistic counterpoint to the federal poverty level.
McCormack’s Dean David W. Cash commends Professor Mutchler on this award. “Jan represents the excellence of the McCormack Graduate School when it comes to linking research and service and this honor is very well deserved. Her demographic work across the state drives important policy and administrative decisions in local cities and towns to better serve our aging populations. Her research impacts the everyday lives of seniors and their families in areas like transportation, recreation, health services, and more.”