Alfred University News

Psychology Professor Danielle Gagne elected president of the State Society on Aging of New York

Alfred University Professor of Psychology Danielle Gagne was elected president of the State Society on Aging of New York (SSANY), beginning January 2024. She hopes to steer the Society, as well as Alfred University, towards a deeper understanding of the challenges facing older adults.

“We come at those challenges from a variety of perspectives,” Gagne says of the Society, noting its members include representatives of the legal and medical professions, as well as community services, AARP, and psychology. “Psychologists make a significant contribution to the conversation.”

Gagne plans to continue the SSA’s work in contributing particularly to the condition of New York State’s prison inmates, many of whom were incarcerated in their youth due to harsh sentencing protocols connected with drug convictions. Many of those individuals are now struggling with age-related issues while they continue serving their sentences.

“Your body changes as you age,” Gagne says, “and prisons are not often engineered to meet demands of age-related dietary changes, increased medication, or medical needs. Our lighting and temperature needs also change as we age, and that puts older inmates at greater risk.” Gagne says she hopes to continue SSA’s support of state legislation that would ease the parole process for inmates 55 years and older who have served at least 15 years of their sentence.

She is the chairperson of the Division of Psychology, Gerontology, and Communication Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and notes the Division has a strong focus on gerontological issues. Gagne teaches the popular Psychology of Death and Dying class, while other courses in the Psychology curriculum include Adult Development and Aging and Cognition and Aging. The division offers a major and minor in gerontological studies, and Gagne hopes the curriculum encourages students to recognize and address more clearly the difficulties of aging.

“We’re encouraging graduating students to be less naïve when it comes to the unique needs of the older population,” she says.

She currently is partnering with the Wellsville-based agency Ardent Solutions. The organization works to foster a culture of health and interconnected social services in its service area. Together, they received a grant to identify ways of making the Alfred University campus more accessible to aging populations and earn a designation as an “Age Friendly University.”

“We’re working to identify the University’s strengths and weaknesses,” she says, “Next semester, we’ll be looking at remediation possibilities.” Those include developing community programs that address the needs of older adults; encouraging students to spend more time with senior citizens, possibly through a senior lunch program; and developing on-campus programs tailored to the interests of older adults.

“We’re all aging, no matter how youthful we are or feel,” Gagne says. “The more we know about the needs of older people, the better we can help those people and be ready for the challenges of aging ourselves.”