Our Team

Meet a compassionate team singularly focused on improving the lives of older adults

Our researchers build their work on a solid foundation of education and expertise, as well as a passion for understanding aging issues and sharing relevant research with professionals in senior living and aging services in order to support innovation.

Catherine O’Brien, PhD, MPH

Assistant Vice President and Director of Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging

In addition to overseeing translational research and other initiatives within the Institute, Dr. O’Brien is responsible for developing collaborative research partnerships with universities and professionals in the field of aging. She serves as managing editor for Seniors Housing & Care Journal, a peer-reviewed publication focusing on applied research and best practices in the fields of seniors housing and long-term care.

Dr. O’Brien’s recent research topics include wellness in residents of Life Plan Communities and senior living workforce development.

Selected Publications:

O’Brien, C., Smith, J. & Beck, D. (2016). Real relationships in a virtual world: Social engagement among older adults in Second Life. Gerontechnology, 15(3):171-179.

O’Brien, C. & Nicholson, R. (2015). Senior Living Residents’ Perceptions of the Boost Your Brain & Memory Program, Seniors Housing & Care Journal, 23(1): 45-57.

King, S., O’Brien, C., Edelman, P., & Fazio, S. (2011). Evaluation of the person centered care essentials program: Importance of trainers in achieving targeted outcomes. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education. 32(4): 379-395.

Edelman P., O’Brien C., Loftus E.M., & Engel R. (2010). Whole-person wellness in senior living: perspectives of 23 pioneering communities. Seniors Housing & Care Journal, 18(1), 53-65.

O’Brien C., Selod S., & Lamb K.V. (2009). A national initiative to train long-term care staff for disaster response and recovery. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Supplement.

Jennifer L. Smith, PhD

Director of Research

Dr. Smith conducts research on resilience and psychological well-being in older adults and the workforce. In addition, she is responsible for overseeing the Quality of Life and Satisfaction Surveys for Mather LifeWays residents, customers, and employees. She serves as an associate managing editor for the Seniors Housing & Care Journal.

Dr. Smith’s recent and ongoing research projects include Perceptions of Aging and Older Adults’ Housing Decisions; a Health and Positive Experiences Survey; and Effects of a Positive Intervention on Older Adults’ Resilience and Well-Being of Older Adults.

Selected Publications:

Smith, J. L., & Bryant, F. B. (in press). Savoring and well-being: Mapping the cognitive-emotional terrain of the happy mind. To appear in M. Eid & M. D. Robinson (Eds.), The Happy Mind: Cognitive Contributions to Well-Being. Springer.

Smith, J. L., & Hanni, A. A. (in press). Effects of a savoring intervention on resilience and well-being of older adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Smith, J. L., & Bryant, F. B. (2016). The benefits of savoring life: Savoring as a moderator of life satisfaction in older adults. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 84, 3-23.

Smith, J. L. (2015). Self-compassion and resilience in senior living residents. Senior Housing and Care Journal, 23, 16-31.

Smith, J. L., & Hollinger-Smith, L. (2015). Savoring, resilience, and psychological well-being in older adults. Aging and Mental Health, 19, 192-200.

Roscoe Nicholson, MA

Senior Research Associate

Since joining the Institute on Aging, Mr. Nicholson has worked on the development and evaluation of a whole-person program on brain fitness, as well as research on the Village movement. Mr. Nicholson regularly contributes research summaries to the monthly e-newsletter InvestigAge.

Mr. Nicholson’s recent and current research projects include several examinations of US Villages and Village coalitions.

Selected Publications:

Nicholson R. & O’Brien C. (forthcoming). Impact of the Educational Boost Your Brain and Memory Program Among Senior Living Residents. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development.

Nicholson R. & O’Brien C. (forthcoming). Lessons Learned from Designing and Evaluating an Educational Brain Fitness Program. Working with Older People.

O’Brien, C. & Nicholson, R. (2015). Senior Living Residents’ Perceptions of the Boost Your Brain & Memory Program, Seniors Housing & Care Journal, 23(1): 45-57.

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