Reframing Aging

with Trish D'Antonio,

Vice President, Policy & Professional Affairs at The Gerontological Society of America

This week on the Art of Aging, host Rev. Beth Long-Higgins welcomes Trish D’Antonio, Vice President of Policy & Professional Affairs at The Gerontological Society of America. During the episode, Trish shares her early interest in aging and gerontology, sparked by her work in a nursing home pharmacy. She talks about how her organization is looking to reshape conversations about aging, challenge ageism, and highlight older people’s contributions. Trish stresses the importance of reframing conversations, research, advocacy, and collaboration in policy work, the impact of caregiving policies on all generations, and more.
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Highlights from this week’s conversation include:

  • Trish’s background and work in the field of gerontology (1:21)
  • The mission of the National Center to Reframe Aging (5:28)
  • Research and development done by the center (6:51)
  • Assessing progress and making an impact (11:19)
  • Reframe don’t rebut (14:40)
  • Raising consciousness about ageism (19:02)
  • Influencing communication strategies (24:10)
  • Policy advocacy and steps towards change (28:34)
  • Impact of caregiving policies on families (29:14)
  • Resources and videos on reframing aging (30:11)


Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit


Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 00:07
Hello and welcome to The Art of aging part of the abundant aging podcast series from United Church homes. On this show, we look at what it means to age in America and in other places around the world with positive and empowering conversations that challenge, encourage and inspire all to age with abundance. Our guest today is Trish de Antonio. Tricia is a certified geriatric pharmacist whose career path has led her to direct the Gerontological Society of America’s policy initiatives. She is responsible for developing relationships with organizations in the aging arena and represents GSA in several policy coalition’s. She serves on the leadership team of the resource centers for minority aging research National Coordinating Center, which supports 18 Resource Centers, and the National Institute on Aging two bolts bolster mentorship and career development of researchers from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, in her role with GSA, she is the Executive Director for the National Center to reframe aging, which is the central hub to advance the long term social change endeavored to improve the public’s understanding of what aging means and the many ways that older people contribute to our society. Welcome, Trish.

Trish D’Antonio 01:24
Thank you so much. Thanks for inviting me to be part of the podcast today.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 01:29
And I just want to make a note here that was extremely shortened from your official bio and all of the areas that you touched on GSA.

Trish D’Antonio 01:39
I think the one thing that we say about GSA is we all have an end in our title. There you

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 01:45
go. There you go. So why don’t we start with how did you geriatric pharmacists come to work with organizations that are focused on aging and gerontology?

Trish D’Antonio 01:59
Wow. So that’s an interesting question, because one of the things that I got to experience differently from my classmates was when we all needed to get our pre-license hours when we were in pharmacy school. I was fortunate to work in an in-house, nursing home pharmacy. So those don’t really exist anymore. But this was in 1985-1986. And it was just around the time that we were talking about some really big changes in nursing homes around residents rights, and what is often quoted as Cobra 87. So I really got an opportunity to see this, and start to understand two things, both my experience in aging and experience in policy. So the first thing I’m starting to realize is okay, we’re getting we’re a nation that’s getting older. And where are the places that I most see patients, and if you exclude antibiotics for children, most of the time, I was seeing people probably 50 and older, but definitely 6065 and older. So I realized that was where I really needed to concentrate my efforts. And then because I worked in nursing homes, and nursing homes are saying regulated policy, you know, the work that you do as a pharmacist doesn’t just impact your work in the pharmacy, it impacts everyone’s work in that in the nursing home, and most, especially the resident. So I really started to understand that there was so much more to policy and aging, and it really interested me. And it sort of set me on a career trajectory that I probably could not have imagined. Most of my colleagues didn’t understand why I was going this way, you know why I was going this way. I worked to get a master’s in finance or because the funding streams for nursing homes were so important. So I went from Duquesne University for my pharmacy degree to Temple University for my masters. And I got an MBA and an MS in health finance with a concentration in long term care. So I really was continued that path, worked as a consultant pharmacist in the Philadelphia area for years, but still wanted to figure out how I could get more engaged in policy and so moved to Washington, because that’s the place where policy is and through a series of positions that I held here in Washington for the last 24 years. Eight years ago, I got the opportunity to come to the Gerontological Society, which really has been such a great experience because the work there is multidisciplinary and our members work really is informing policy throughout the country. So legislation legislative work as well as regulatory work. So you came to GSA, after they had already begun the research with the reframe Institute, on ageism. And that’s how I’ve come to know you is through the National Center to reframe aging, which also didn’t exist eight years ago when you came around.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 05:28
So tell me, talk a little bit about how that initiative again has come to your plate. And what excites you about this work?

Trish D’Antonio 05:38
Well, I think the one thing that excites me about the work is certainly the collaboration and the connection with all aging with all the aging organizations. So the way this started the CEOs of the national aging organizations, like American Geriatric Society, American society on aging GSA, and there’s a list on our website, AARP came together. And they as they did, not regularly, but frequently enough, and they were trying to think about, you know, what is it that’s really holding us back in aging, we feel we felt like, you know, you get policies so far down the stretch, and then in the midnight, we have to take things out in order to get this legislation to balance the aging pieces that we thought were going to be in the legislation, you wake up the next morning, and they’re not there. And so it really was a what do we have to do to get people to understand the importance of policy and aging? And how can that really advance? Advance for us. All right. So the executive directors, with funders, national philanthropic funders, as well as with the framework, they contracted with the FrameWorks Institute, to do some research, right? What do you want to do? First, you want to get that evidence base for you know, what does? How does the public view aging? How do experts view aging, and really see what that’s about? And it was amazing how ageism was just not on our radar screen, when we interviewed the public. So with that research in hand, you know, the executive directors worked with FrameWorks Institute to think about, well, what are the next steps? What do we do to advance this? And in like, 20 2016 2017, is when there was a concept of being able to teach facilitators at each of the organizations that were involved on how we can reframe aging, or how what it really is how can we develop our communication strategies to get people to think differently about aging, to embrace aging, as we do as aging experts, so probably around 2017 are, the grant was originally with grantmakers in aging, they were the fiduciary, when it came time to think about how we’re going to move this and disseminate it. GSA was offered that opportunity. And it’s about that time that our CEO said to me, I want you to think about this, this is part of your, this is going to be part of your portfolio, start to come to these meetings and start to learn about this. And so 2018, I really just dove into it to learn, what is it that we have? And what is it that we can do with it? And how is it that we, you know, broaden that sphere of influence with people that understand this?

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 08:48
So I first started attending workshops that you all were doing through leading age and American society on aging, and it just clicked for me and what we do to unite your charms and through the Parker center for London aging. And so what is it you talked about facilitators and in full disclosure, I am on a new facilitator will let us know, what is the mission? What do you see going forward with the mission for the National Center besides training people like me around the country?

Trish D’Antonio 09:23
Sure. So I think ultimately, what our mission is to reshape the conversation about each, right? So that’s the piece that is ultimately important, so that people understand. Number one, we’re all aging, and it’s not the aging population. We are all aging. We are all part of this community as we age. I think the second thing is for us to develop the resources to support people who really are trying to advance those communication strategies that we learned would be effective in our research, right? How To read talk about aging, how do we talk about older people, so that the picture that people get in their eye, in their mind really does get a more realistic understanding of what it means as we age. I think you and I both know, in conversations we talked about that we learned as the public sees older people as either all going on cruises, as they retire, or everybody’s in a bed and is incapacitated. And unfortunately, we tend to talk about older people in terms of death, decline, and disability. And that’s not the true story. That’s not the full story of aging. And that’s the thing that, I think in our mission, we want people to understand the complete story of aging. Yeah,

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 10:51
I can’t, I can’t remember, I’ve had this conversation with you, or maybe with some others. But did you ever get tired? Do you feel like you’re just repeating yourself over and over again? And how do you feel about the center? How does it assess its progress? And how do you personally feel about you know, am I making? Are we making an impact? Are we making a difference?

Trish D’Antonio 11:19
Now, it can be really easy to let yourself fall into, you know, am I really making a difference. But I really, first of all, I work with incredible people. I work with incredibly committed people, incredibly committed people in different facets of society, some people are working on a national stage, some people are working on a local stage. And we all have this common goal to change that communication strategy. So I am so inspired by the work that different communities have taken on to really think about how, how to embrace aging. I am really inspired by my colleagues and other national organizations. So it’s hard for me to feel like it’s okay for me to get down on anything when I see the work that everyone else is doing as well. I also think that what’s important there is that this is culture change. And we have to be patient. And we know that culture change doesn’t happen. One presentation, one documented document that we change, it really is, you know, 20 years for us to see that change happen that we seek. And I think really in the dissemination phase is we’ve gotten this out. We’re really in our infancy. You know, we’re in our infant stages here. We really started about five years ago, getting this out beyond a core group of people. And that’s what’s really important for us to remember and so not to get sad, and when we might see some things or here’s some things that aren’t exactly like we would want them. Yeah.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 13:09
I just did a presentation yesterday in a church, and at the end of the presentation was the pastor who I’ve known since college, and she has actually done a whole week long for such a long course with me this past summer. So this isn’t the first time she’s heard it. But at the end of the presentation, she got up and she said, Okay, I have to confess, I realized what happened. She said, when I introduced bath, I said, we’ve known each other longer than we want to admit. And she said, and then you got up and said, I have had the pleasure of knowing Joyce since college. And she said I realized that was a gist of me. Hey, why did I not want to admit that our college days or 40 years ago. And so those sometimes for me, it’s those little pieces of seeing the AHA light bulb go on for people. And for them to be able to say, Okay, that was just an incident that changed happening before our very eyes.

Trish D’Antonio 14:17
That’s exactly it. I’m so great. I’m so glad that she felt comfortable to share that excitement. That’s the other piece when we share with others, then they start to realize, especially our peers, right start to realize, oh, okay, I can do this. And that’s what really starts to you know, that modeling of our language starts to really get to the change that we see.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 14:40
Okay, one of my favorite phrases and you know what’s coming I think that I have in bold in my notes from the facilitator training is the phrase, reframe, don’t rebut. Do you want to explain to folks what that means? And why that’s so important.

Trish D’Antonio 15:02
Sure. And it really, you know, I think the more that I have kept that in my mind, it helps me in different conversations, right? The one thing is when someone says something, pretty ages, we have to call it out, you know, we should call it out, we. But the important thing is to try and understand where someone’s coming from, and why they may think that. And if we rebut, all we do is kind of push back and someone, and how does that conversation start to go? Or if it’s, if it’s a large organization that you want to help get them to reframe a message that they’ve developed. If you call it out in an antagonistic way, you don’t get to have the conversation about why reframing is important. And so that’s what I think is really, it’s really center to what we try to do is, you know, I was wondering what made you think that way, one of the things that we work on, is to improve how people understand aging, how we’re so much more diverse as we age, how we’re different? And yes, how some of us are aging with illness, and some of us are working in the workforce, and contributing so much, I think it’s really important to get people to come to that themselves, and understand that themselves, rather than just that confrontational kind of approach. Quite often. Just like your colleague writing is quite awesome, people do not recognize or realize that what they did say, really does show about our agents’ tendencies, our implicit bias toward aging. And so I think that offering somebody an opportunity to feel like they can learn something, and that I can learn something right, I learned something from that person is really key, in our watcher of reframe, don’t read, but

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 17:19
yeah, I think another piece that I found helpful that I’ve used is the concept of you saying this, but this is what people hear. And then to be able to have some of the research behind that to explain what that is, I was in a presentation and the person was equating our aging population to a natural disaster. And you know, afterwards, I went up to them, I said, yet, you know, just the research shows that when you say this term, I’m not gonna say because I don’t want to reinforce it. But when you say this term, what happens emotionally to people is they think of a natural disaster. There’s nothing helpful. There’s nothing I can do about it. And they turn off. And he said, I know it, but no, but it sounds cool. And it helps to explain, I said, Well, what are you trying to explain by using that term? Yeah. And he said it and I said, Well, would you use it? Explain it then. But when you use that term, the research shows that this is what people feel, and this is what they think they’re not hearing what you’re trying to say. And so I think that’s one of the ways that it’s so important to have the research behind the reframe Institute done.

Trish D’Antonio 18:38
Well, and I think the one thing that’s really important is these are deeply seated messages that we have encoded in our brains, that we don’t even really recognize that we’re making those split second decisions, it’s, you know, we get so much information and how we process it. And we’re really trying to get to those deep models that have already been built in our brains. And what we’re trying to do is get people to rethink them. And so that’s why, again, it’s culture change, and it’s going to take time, because remember, three years old, we’ve been hearing jokes, watching television, television shows, hearing how our mentors or our you know, our parents or our families, are referencing aging. And those types of things really just inform us for so long, and we’re trying to unravel that. So that’s why it’s so important to think about that and take time with it. Yeah, absolutely.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 19:38
So all of this work started. Yeah. Prior to 2020. Yeah. What effect has the pandemic had on this work? Has it helped the national conversation? Has it kind of sent us back backwards in the process? How would you say it? The pandemic has affected this process.

Trish D’Antonio 20:03
Well, I think there are a couple of things. pandemic, certainly, you know, it was a crisis or even it was not, you know. So there were some things that we learned about ourselves and about our resilience for all of us, as we age that I think, are helpful, right? We saw older people come back to the workforce and volunteer in different ways to help support. On the other hand, we heard some pretty radical statements that were solely based on someone’s chronological age. So how many birthday cake birthday candles on the cake, where we will not treat people over the age of 65, or 70. And solely because of someone’s age, when we recognize that we all have ways to contribute in society and really think about functional age and look holistically at a person for treatment and therapy. When we talked about COVID-19, I don’t think I thought it did because it raised consciousness for some people about ageism. My concern has long been that as a country, we have short memories, and we move to the next thing. So we know we’ve gotten to, with that first adopter group, that first 15% of people who really say, hey, we need to pay attention to this, we need to make changes, we can’t let this happen again, as far as how we treat older people, or sometimes laid the blame game that was put there. And yet we have more work to do. Right? So we shouldn’t just say, you know, we won, because we were able to get some policies changed because we weren’t able to get all policies changed. So I think that’s really important. I do realize that we have more interest from people in aging, Aging Network. And I think some of it is because we couldn’t have imagined that we would hear elected officials say things like I lived my life. As you know, we don’t have to treat anybody over the age of 70. Like, I don’t think I think we were just shocked when I heard that.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 22:28
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So looking ahead, what are the next steps? How do we get beyond that, first, the early adopters? And how will we know when we’ve kind of made it to 20 or 25%.

Trish D’Antonio 22:45
So, you know, there’s a couple of things. One, we work nationally, in our efforts from the National Center to engage public partners, private partners. And so we are hearing things and seeing things in government agencies that are unaware that even if they’re starting to write in a well framed manner, it takes some time again for that to filter down. But you know, when a government document, not even federal, federal and state government documents are written, that’s where people draw from, to write their principles or their pieces. So if we can get those well frames, we know that will start to influence in a way that is probably not something where you can get that one to one relationship. But certainly you can start to see and hear it in, in different communication pieces. The other thing that we do is, you had mentioned earlier about facilitators working with, with facilitators, like you who have been provided specific education to truly understand the research and be able to share that with others, that helps us increase that network of people that we’re reaching. We’re seeing that locally around the country. So there is a group in San Antonio, that successfully engages and lives in San Antonio, who’s doing some great work in Texas, to be able to influence language and now and to influence communication strategies. And now they get called on a regular basis from city officials from either so not just people in the Department of Aging, right. The Department of Transportation is calling them so that’s really important. In New York, live on New York, really did take on the elections for mayor and city council two years ago, making sure that all of the messages that went when asking you about aging more well frame taught Any council member that was interested in learning how to frame their message is better around aging, and now are staying with those elected officials to ensure that the aging agenda that was promised, continues, again in a well framed way. And then where you’re from in Ohio, the Ohio area agency on aging Association, Beth Kovalchuk has led a pretty intensive activity to improve the budget for aging. And making sure that the work again, making sure that the communications are well framed, to drive people to understanding about aging, and about older people, that really gets us to a point where there’s recognition that we are all part of our communities. And why that is so important to think about. The last thing that I would say that I think is a success that we’ll start to measure now is as states embark on multisector plans. Alright, so there’s the state plan on Aging, which usually involves the aging department in a state, but then the multi sector plan on Aging, which is usually led by the executive, and it could be led by test to the State Unit on Aging, or this state aging, state aging colleagues, but it includes all departments. And so now it’s thinking about how we’re framing people who work in transportation before people who are in housing, before people who work in nutrition services, and really start to think about that. So we recognize how we could start to understand aging much more if we keep framing for people. And that’s where we’ll start to see, you know, those networks really start to advance. So very excited about that kind of work that’s coming along. In this year, many, many more states are starting to think about the multi sector plan for aging, some states might refer to Merck may refer to them as master plans on aging. And each state calls it something different to fulfill the needs for that state. So I think those are really different ways that make me excited to know that we’re going to be branching out even further and how people understand aging. Yeah.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 27:33
And it occurred to me that you mentioned the work that Beth had done here in Ohio. And I know, she was working with some phenomenal colleagues, as well. And one of the things that we heard around the budgeting process, as folks were meeting with legislators, and then will the budget starting to come in is, oh, my gosh, we’ve not seen this level of support before. And, you know, I just, you know, and then some of it goes away in the process of, you know, making it go through both houses on the governor, I think it probably has to do with the fact that, that Beth and the folks that leaving age, Ohio and the Ohio Healthcare Association, were framing things in a way that it was making sense in a way that it hadn’t, perhaps made previously. So, you know, we may never know. But we’re gonna continue on that journey.

Trish D’Antonio 28:34
And that’s what we are. And I think that’s the one thing when we record policy, we all know that it takes its own steps, and you might not get everything you asked for. In the first go round. You get people excited about it, and you have people thinking about it. So there’s continued opportunity there. Yeah.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 28:52
And I think you’re also getting interest from other groups that don’t work specifically in the aging sphere as well,

Trish D’Antonio 28:57
right? That’s true. I mean, you know, if you can get others to advocate for your position, that’s, you know, if you get people in different sectors, who normally wouldn’t be people that you think would advocate that that’s a key, right? That’s where you know, you’re starting to get success and where people are starting to understand that this is about all of us. Right? Good. Caregiving policies are good policies for perhaps an older person who receives care, the care for the adult child, and then even for the adult child children, because now the adult child is able to be available for their family, right, for all of their family. So really thinking about those things and how it really impacts us all. That’s a key right, recognizing those strategies that we talked about that we want to advance. Yeah, absolutely. So before we get to the last three Questions we like to ask all of our guests? Do you want to let folks know where they can find out about the work that you’re doing through the National Center and GSA, happy to so we have a website, reframing aging DOT o RG. There you will find resources that are just Quickstart guides to really start to understand what it means to reframe aging. There are a series of videos called frame of mind video series that are each four videos, they’re each less than two minutes, watch one of those and really start to understand what it is we’re trying to advance in this cultural change that we see. And I’m

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 30:39
going to interject those videos are phenomenal. I strongly encourage folks to check those out.

Trish D’Antonio 30:44
Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 30:47
Yeah. So are you ready for the questions?

Trish D’Antonio 30:50
I am okay.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 30:56
When you think about how you have aged, what do you think has changed about you or grown with you that you really like about yourself?

Trish D’Antonio 31:07
So I, you know, I thought about these questions a lot this weekend, because, you know, what’s the Great answer? Yeah. One thing that I came to is that what I really like about myself, as I’ve aged is that I still continue to ask why. I think if you asked my dad, what was the fourth word out of my mouth? It was probably why like after mom died, Mama DOT. That was why. And what really gets me excited is why are we doing, you know, why do people think this way? How can we get them to think differently by asking why it is so important? That I think that’s one thing that I’ve grown with, I’ve changed a little in my passion around the Y in the sense of, I think when I was younger, I was like, why are you this way? And now it’s more of a? Well, tell me why. So that I can seek understanding? And then try to advance the position, which I did. Yes. So I would say that I would say it’s now

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 32:14
They say that curiosity is one of those traits that’s really helpful for a long and healthy life. So there you go. Okay, question number two, what has surprised you most? As you have aged?

Trish D’Antonio 32:28
I think one of the things that really does surprise me most is something that’s come through in some research that really translates to it’s a journey, not a destination. You know, I mean, when I was younger, I remember thinking, Oh, and I’m 30 Oh, and I’m 50 Oh, and I’m 60. And I’m 59. Now, so yeah, what I started to realize is, you know, it’s not about thinking about that forward age or anything, it’s about appreciating the journey, and reflecting on the journey, so that you can take away those parts with you and continue to carry them with you that are the good things, right? There’s always something that’s not going to sit well with you. You don’t have to carry that with you, you learn from the experience and move forward. So I think that’s the one thing that surprised me most about as I’ve aged, and that’s shown up in research, right, that people are surprised when they hit a certain age that they’re still themselves. You know, there’s, there’s some wisdom that’s been accumulated. And we’re still ourselves.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 33:36
Exactly, exactly where or the accumulation of everything we’ve experienced up until this time. So yeah. Okay. And here’s the last question. And that’s usually my favorite. Is there someone that you’ve met, or who has been in your life that has set a good example for you and aging someone that inspires you to age abundantly as we talk about it here at the partner center? When

Trish D’Antonio 33:58
I read this question, and I don’t want to cry. So my dad is probably the person that is the longest. So being able to watch him, being able to learn from him, being able to tap into his experience and his wisdom has been really something for me, that gives me confidence, and gives me strength as I continue to do the work that I do. He retired at 53. And it’s now 83. And I’ve just learned how, you know, retirement doesn’t mean stop. Retirement means there are other opportunities in my journey. And here is how I continued to, to contribute to my family, to to my community. And that’s been really important for me to be able to watch and learn from That’s right. I’ve taught throughout my life course throughout our life courses together. And I really, I try, I was thinking like, is there anybody else? Like when I was thinking about this, it’s like, okay, am I supposed to see somebody like the Pope? Or am I supposed to say somebody like, and I kept coming back to my dad? So really, because it’s such a close relationship, I think. Yeah, absolutely.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 35:21
Yeah. For me, it’s the people that I stop and I look at and they say, I want to be like her when I’m that age. Yeah. Like those people that you look at and you admire. And, yeah, well, thank you very much for sharing and you may have teared up, you didn’t cry. That’s fine. So thank you, our listeners, for listening to this episode of The Art of aging, part of the abundant aging podcast series of United Church homes. And we want to hear from you what’s changed about you as you’ve aged that you love? What has surprised you most and how do you define abundant aging and who’s your abundant aging hero or abundant aging influencer, you can visit us at www DOT abundant aging to share your ideas you can also give us feedback when you visit the Ruth Ross Parker Center website at So Trish Tell us again where can people find you.

Trish D’Antonio 36:20
So first, I just want to say thank you. This was a real pleasure. People can find us at

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins 36:30
Nice and concise and easy. I can even remember that website. Yeah, there you go. Thank you so much Trish, and we’ll talk later.