Jennifer is the Founding Director of the DEER Program, which launched in October 2018. To this role, Jennifer brings a commitment to service, collaboration and innovation built upon more than 35 years of practical experience in long-term care (LTC) and aging services. As a community-engaged researcher, Jennifer spends much of her time working with tribal, rural and urban communities as Director of the Dementia Friendly Nevada initiative, sponsored by the State of Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division (ADSD) and Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), and teaching professional and family care partners as the author and facilitator of Bravo Zulu: Achieving Excellence in Relationship-Centered Dementia Care, a comprehensive, 12-hour dementia education program developed in partnership with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services. Jennifer also partners with the UNR School of Medicine’s Sanford Center for Aging on a U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program grant. Her role is to provide comprehensive education for family and professional care partners as part of the Improving Care of Elders through Community and Academic Partnerships (ICECAP Nevada) initiative. Jennifer recently received the 2022 Laura Joyner Award from the Mensa Foundation, which recognizes outstanding work in the area of human intelligence, for her innovative program development focused on brain health promotion and risk reduction across the life course, including after a dementia diagnosis.
In addition to her grant-funded projects, Jennifer contracts with LTC, senior living, and not-for-profit organizations across North America on collaborative research- and education-focused initiatives, guided by participatory action research. Some of these initiatives have earned Jennifer and her partners prestigious awards and recognitions, including Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging’s Working Together to Put Living First, recognized with a 2011 Excellence in Aging Services Award by the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, and LIVING the Dementia Journey, which received the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s Innovation Award in 2017, and was recognized by the Argentum Memory Care Executive Peer Group as one of the top innovations in 2016. Recently, Jennifer worked in partnership with Carol Woods Retirement Community on a dementia inclusion project called The Quest Upstream, which received a 2018 Facility Best Practice Award from Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care, was identified as a ‘Pioneering Approach to Memory Care’ by CARF International, and was highlighted in Moira Welsh’s (2021) book, Happily Ever Older: Revolutionary Approaches to Long-Term Care.
During the pandemic, Jennifer played a leadership role in the development, implementation and evaluation of the Nevada COVID-19 Aging Network rapid response, or Nevada CAN, led by ADSD. In addition to serving as a co-lead for the overall initiative, she led Nevada CAN’s NEST Collaborative (NEST = Nevada Ensures Support Together), which provides volunteer-hosted, virtual social support and technology assistance to homebound elders, adults living with disabilities, and veterans. Prior to the pandemic, Jennifer completed a North American tour as a co-creator and cast member of Disrupt Dementia, part of Dr. Bill Thomas’ international Changing Aging Tour.
With a strong commitment to partnerships and participatory approaches to research and practice, Jennifer’s career and scholarship encompass gerontology, dementia, long-term care, culture change, and leisure and aging. Her educational background includes a BA in Therapeutic Recreation from Eastern Washington University (1998); a MS in Therapeutic Recreation from Clemson University (2003); and a PhD in Recreation and Leisure Studies: Aging, Health and Well-Being Program from the University of Waterloo (2015).