KINGSTON, R.I. — June 13, 2022 — Recognized for her “outstanding contributions to the field of gerontology,” Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Science Skye Leedahl is being inducted as a Fellow for the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging.
Leedahl is being honored as a Fellow in two sections of the society — the Academy of Gerontology in Higher Education and Social Research, Policy, and Practice. Just 36 others from across the country will be recognized for 2022. Leedahl will be formally recognized during GSA’s Annual Scientific Meeting, which will be held Nov. 2-6 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“I’ve been a member since I was a graduate student, and GSA quickly became my professional home where I found people who were really interested in the same research as me,” Leedahl said. “I always remember thinking how amazing the GSA fellows are; it was always something I was striving to become. And when I learned I was chosen, I was excited to reach this big goal of mine.”
GSA Fellows have attained peer recognition for “outstanding contributions to the field of gerontology and represent the highest class of GSA membership.” The distinction comes at varying points in a person’s career and is given for diverse activities that include research, teaching, administration, public service and practice.
Leedahl’s work is focused on improving quality of life and health for older adults at multiple levels. Her research fits within three themes: intergenerational programming and its impacts on ageism, interest in working with older adults, and digital inclusion and social connectedness for older adults; social integration and health for older adults; and state and community-level policy initiatives.
Among her most public projects is the URI Cyber-Seniors digiAGE Initiative — a partnership among the URI College of Health Sciences, the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and RI Housing — which aims to increase digital literacy in older adults. Also known as “URI Cyber-Seniors,” the program has been supported by more than $500,00 in grant funding from such organizations as the Office of Healthy Aging, RI Housing and the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, among others. A pilot research study provided participants with smart devices like iPads, wireless internet hotspots, and the training they need to access online resources, work and meet remotely, and virtually communicate with family and friends. URI students and faculty members visit senior centers and senior housing complexes around the state, and provide continuing tech support and training at no cost to participants.
“Our team at URI is thrilled to offer this intergenerational program to improve digital inclusion among the older population, especially for older adults from areas hardest hit by the pandemic,” Leedahl has said. “We’re trying to make Rhode Island and URI a leader in the intergenerational technology research space. I think what we’re doing here is pretty unique, and we’ve been able to make it a sustainable program and take it statewide. So a next step is to complete research publications and disseminate the information to learn from our experience so we can help other states and universities do something similar.”
To contribute to the URI Engaging Generations Cyber-Seniors program, visit the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement giving page.