“Elderhood is a specific phase of life, and we think of that as a developmental stage that is distinct from adulthood .. . I think in our western culture we have a tendency to think of old people as just older adults, and that really .. . cheats us out of the special gifts and attributes of old people, which I like to think of as elders, in a very positive sense of that word.. . ”

Dr. Nancy Kusmaul and Lisa Kendall

In this episode, our guests Dr. Nancy Kusmaul and Lisa Kendall discuss the possible impacts of traumatic experiences as people transition into older adulthood. They describe specific applications of a trauma perspective with elders and what helping professionals might observe in their clients to warrant further assessment. Dr. Kusmaul and Ms. Kendall highlight the distinctive opportunities and manifestations for re-traumatization with the older adult population, and the trauma-informed care implications for organizations and caregivers serving older adults.

Nancy Kusmaul, PhD, LMSW, received her MSW from the University of Michigan and her PhD from the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the baccalaureate social work program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Dr. Kusmaul worked in health care for more than a decade in a variety of settings including nursing homes, hospitals, home care, and adult day care. Her research focuses on organizational culture, trauma-informed care, and the impact of trauma experiences on the workforce. She is interested in the experience of direct care workers in organizations, particularly, certified nursing assistants in long-term care settings. She is a member of the Baltimore County Elder Abuse Coalition and the Maryland Nursing Home Culture Change Coalition.


Lisa A. Kendall, LCSW-R, CSW-G, is a social work psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist who has worked with elders and their care partners for over thirty years in home health, adult day programs, hospitals, and nursing home settings. Now in her private therapy practice, she works with elders, care partners, and others who live with chronic health and cognitive issues, and those healing from trauma and loss. Lisa is committed to using person-directed, trauma-informed therapies, including EMDR and strength-based, person-directed approaches, to maximize well-being for clients and their families. She also teaches the fieldwork class for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute and serves on the Cornell University President’s Advisory Council on Work and Family Affairs.

Interviewer: Jacqueline Mcginley, MSW

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