Maria Aranda, an associate professor at the USC School of Social Work and core faculty of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, was presented the California Elder Mental Health and Aging Coalition’s Older Adult Leadership and Advocacy Award at the California Association of Area Agencies on Aging (C4A) Annual Meeting and Allied Conference for her efforts to improve the mental health and well-being of aging Latinos in the state.
“I realize that this type of recognition—although it’s for me the recipient of this year’s award—is really meant for everyone here,” Aranda said.
Aranda has served as principal investigator or co-investigator on a range of behavioral trials and epidemiological surveys, and is perhaps best known for her work on problem-solving therapy as a treatment for depression with older and middle-aged Latinos. However, upon accepting the honor, she reflected back to the early years of her career as a licensed clinical social worker.
“I dedicate this award to a group of older adults that I worked with in the early 1980s,” Aranda said. “The group was called Grupo Siempre Viva.”
Before embarking on her career in research and joining the USC School of Social Work faculty in 1995, Aranda formed the Spanish-speaking Alzheimer’s disease support group “Grupo Siempre Viva” (Always Alive Group) in an effort to better educate ethnic groups about the disease. Ethnic groups often face linguistic and cultural barriers to obtaining information and receiving treatment for the most common form of dementia.
Presenting the award to Aranda was Marie Torres, a familiar friend and colleague who received the same award in 2011.
“I have had the opportunity to observe Dr. Aranda in action as a prominent and committed researcher in her study on a depression care program for older Latinos with major depression within AltaMed’s Adult Day Health Care centers and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly,” Torres said.
Torres, the current senior vice president of government relations and community research at AltaMed Health Services Corporation, once studied alongside Aranda when they were both doctoral students at the USC School of Social Work. They continue to collaborate together on community research projects today.
“Dr. Aranda has dedicated her career to improving the lives of a segment of the population that is all too often left behind,” Torres said. “She recognizes and understands the special needs that our elders require, and, thus, she is the bridge that our communities need to turn research into policy and policy into action.”
Aranda holds a joint appointment at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and has served on local and national boards and committees dedicated to the enhancement of practice, policy, research and advocacy related to underserved minority populations. In 2012, she was also elected a fellow with The Gerontological Society of America, as part of its Social Research, Policy and Practice Section. Fellowship represents the highest class of membership in the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization dedicated to research, education and practice in the field of aging.
The C4A annual conference is the only integrated conference for aging and long-term care service providers in California. C4A is a nonprofit organization that represents California’s 33 area agencies on aging and is an advocate on behalf of older persons, persons with disabilities, and their caregivers and families.