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I Am Chairing the “Elderly and Senior Population” Subgroup of the APA Covid-19 Task Force

I have joined the Covid-19 Task Force of the American Psychological Association. The initiative for the task force was Dr. Charles Figley’s, a well-known figure in the field of trauma research. The Task Force is comprised of psychologists across the USA, as well as from other countries. Dr. Figely called upon all those who attended the first meetings to come forth with suggestions identifying vulnerable groups who might have had particular needs and priorities during the Covid-19 crisis. A number of small sub-groups were created, each focused on a particular population.

As is often the case, the good suggestions, which identified multiple vulnerable groups, did not include the elderly and seniors.  This omission is not coincidental; rather, it reflects the relative lack of visibility of the older population in many aspects of research in psychology. However, this omission is particularly glaring in the context of the task force created to examine the psychological impact of Covid-19, since it has been the elderly and seniors who have been particularly impacted by the pandemic, which poses the highest risk to individuals over 60 years old.

As a child of two Holocaust survivor parents, I have always felt the gaping absence of grandparents in the life of my family. I have always felt emotionally connected to other elderly people whom I was privileged to have in my life, and these experiences have left me very committed to the way elderly people are treated in our society. I therefore felt compelled to suggest a subgroup that will focus on the needs and priorities of seniors during Covid-19, and I will chair the work of this subgroup. I am planning to collect resources from academia as well as from the field, and to make them available to professionals and agencies working with the elderly. I am particularly interested in the experiences of senior who have suffered and endured traumatic situations in prior times in their lives, and how these past experiences contribute to the difficulties, concerns, and resiliencies that these seniors exhibit in reaction to the pandemic. Understanding these unique aspects will help us enhance the individual resilience of elderly people and the effectiveness of interventions offered to them. I have developed a research plan and am applying for research grants to make it possible to proceed with the collection of relevant material as soon as possible.

               Irit Felsen


  1. Carol l says

    I am so happy to hear that you’ll be chairing this group and raising the much needed awareness of the impact of covid on older people, many of whom have experienced trauma in their lives.
    Thank you.

  2. Jean Burnton says

    Irit, I’m so pleased you have taken on this task. It’s been enlightening to see how older (70 plus ) can help demonstrate resilience but of course what they are vulnerable to. I’ve noticed through my own experience , work and talking to others that how seniors engaged with technology contributed to a more positive mind set or not. Their attitude to this seemed linked to prior dispositions/ experiences.

    I chose the age of 70 as in N. Z.this group and older were asked to stay home and take more care.

  3. Gail Graf says

    Dr Felsen ~ I attended a Training in Orange County, NY where you taught about trauma in the elderly. You shared your experience strength and hope with us as well. Congratulations and Best
    Wishes on your new assignment. I
    look forward to learning more about
    your experience and research on this important topic.
    Gail Scott Graf LCSW

    • Irit Felsen, Ph.D. says

      I thank you so sincerely for the warm feedback and hope you stay safe and well!

  4. Jenni Frumer says

    Irit, I am so honored to serve with you on this committee, to ensure that older adults and their families have a voice!

    • Irit Felsen, Ph.D. says

      Dear Jenni, It is my privilege to be able to work together with you on this incredibly important issue, which is so close to our hearts!

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