May 24, 2023

Emphasizing the diversity of human experiences and how, despite these differences, we can still connect, learn, and feel comfort from each other.

This May, the Older Adult Behavioral Health conference brought together people in the aging and behavioral health service communities to learn different cultural frameworks for spiritual and emotional healing, hear about new older adult behavioral health initiatives from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) and the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and identify strategies for promoting connection and finding meaning and purpose in the aging process. Healing in Community: Promoting Social Connection and Mental Wellbeing among Diverse Older Adults emphasized our ability to connect with each other and the positive impact connection has on our overall wellbeing.

“No matter how we identify spiritually, we are all seeking something greater than ourselves. We can find meaningful practices and still connect, learn, and feel comfort from each other.”
Rabbi Giulia Fleishman, Director of Spiritual Care at 2Life Communities

The Older Adult Behavioral Health Network (OABHN) (formerly the Massachusetts Aging and Mental Health Coalition) seeks to build a behavioral health service system that meets the needs of older adults from diverse racial, cultural, and linguistic communities. Throughout the day, conference speakers emphasized the diversity of human experiences and how, despite these differences, we can still connect, learn, and feel comfort from each other.

“The diversity of human experiences is like different notes of a symphony. Together, these differences make a melody.”
Reverend Dr. Jacqueline Dyer, Simmons University School of Social Work

Caption Keynote Speakers Reverend Dr. Jacqueline Dyer (left) and Dr. Sunita Puri (right)

Attendees heard from a range of speakers of various backgrounds and experiences. Morning keynote speaker Reverend Dr. Jacqueline Dyer of Simmons University School of Social Work lead participants through activities centered around integrating spirituality and religion into clinical practice. Beth Lucas, Deputy Commissioner of DMH and Robin Lipson, Deputy Secretary, EOEA shared updates about programs to help at risk older adults live in the community including the groundbreaking Behavioral Health Program Director position at EOEA and new, specialized supportive housing for older adults with behavioral health conditions.

Afternoon keynote speaker Dr. Sunita Puri, Program Director of the Hospice Palliative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and Chan School of Medicine and author of That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour spoke on having the right conversations at the right time with the people we love.

Concurrent workshop sessions held in the morning and afternoon provided the opportunity for attendees to interact with each other while learning more about resources that they could implement in both personal and professional practice. Workshop topics included behavioral health innovation, using poetry in the care of older adults, death doulas, sharing your personal recovery story, mindfulness practices, death journaling, and more.

“It is our hope that the conference, which commemorates Older Adult Behavioral Health Awareness Day, will continue to grow as more people discover the rewards of working with older adults. We look forward to continuing to provide the opportunity for people to come learn new ways of healing and supporting our wonderfully diverse and resilient aging population.”
Cassie Cramer, Older Adult Behavioral Health Project Director
Frankco sign
MAMH team

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