Gitlin and Jemmott Appointed to Mayor's Commission on Aging
September 24, 2021
Mayor Jim Kenny recently announced his new appointees to the Mayor’s Commission on Aging, an advisory group dedicated to serving seniors in the City of Philadelphia and enhancing their quality of life, creating a more equitable and livable city for Philadelphians of all ages. The commission is comprised of 17 leaders from across Philadelphia who are advocates, policy experts and academics in fields such as aging, community outreach, non-profit initiatives, healthcare and more. Of these 17, two are Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) leaders and senior administrators: Dean Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, FGSA, FAAN and Vice President of Health and Health Equity Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN.
As the City of Philadelphia moves to become more age-friendly, Dean Gitlin was an obvious choice to serve on the commission. In 2019, through Gitlin’s leadership, Drexel became the first institution in Philadelphia to receive the Age-Friendly University international designation. “What’s important about my appointment to the commission is that it will help to link our work, both our research and pedagogy, to the city’s goals of being age friendly, and extend our impact to policy,” she said. Working with the commission can afford the college new opportunities to partner with the city and other organizations. “We bring leadership, expertise, and evidence to the commission’s work.”
Gitlin has spent 30+ years of her career focused on research which has identified strategies to help people age in place. She and her research teams have developed interventions that address difficulties with everyday tasks in older adults with functional challenges, depression, caregiving challenges and quality of life for people living with dementia. “Participating in the commission can help inform city policies and practices to better support older adults as they age with different challenges. This is a natural next step in my work, and I am honored to be on this board with its potential for impact,” Gitlin said.
The Mayor’s Commission on Aging is not the first time Jemmott has been chosen to serve. She was previously the co-chair of the Mayor’s Commission for Universal Pre-K. She was selected for each of these initiatives because of her expertise in community engagement. She has over 30 years of conducting NIH funded deep-dive community outreach and engagement research aimed at designing and evaluating various health promotion initiatives nationally and internationally. She believes “community partnership is a critical approach in promoting the health of community residents in Philadelphia and around the world.” She led Drexel University’s community/civic engagement initiative, “We Here Because We Care: Building Healthy Communities Together,” which was designed to partner with the community to identify health and wellness concerns within the ten West Philadelphia Promise Zone communities and develop health and wellness programs to improve health outcomes based on the communities’ voices. “I will get at some of those hidden issues that are pocketed in certain populations,” she said. “It’s important that we hear the voices of the people to guide them. Most of my work is giving a voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless.”
While her work doesn’t focus specifically on the aging community, she does have substantial experience with them through various projects. In particular, Jemmott launched the Community Wellness HUB, a partnership between Drexel University and the residents of the Mantua and Powelton Village neighborhoods in the Promise Zone. “We’ll continue to do this deep-dive community approach to identify the health concerns of the population. We’ve captured a lot of information already that can help guide programs at the HUB and across the city, and design something that they want rather than what we want.”
The focus of the commission is on creating a city that is age friendly and supports all residents as they age, assuring that with age, people have access to transportation, safe neighborhoods to walk in, access to food and access to culturally competent health care. “Our city, state and country, much like the world is aging – this presents unique opportunities as people can live longer and healthier lives but also presents challenges as not everyone has an equal opportunity to age with good health,” said Gitlin. “As Philadelphians continue aging, the better we get our hands wrapped around what older adults face today, including their social determinants of health, inequities and social injustices, the better prepared we’ll be for the future,” said Jemmott.
Written by Maggie McCrea