Christine Fruhauf named fellow of Gerontological Society of America

Christine Fruhauf, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, has been recognized for her outstanding research contributions to the field of aging with the award of fellow status in the Gerontological Society of America.

The fellow status is the highest class of membership within the society and is an acknowledgement of exceptional and continuing work in the field of gerontology.

ChristineFruhauf-OriginalFruhauf has a longtime interest in the field of aging, joining GSA in 1997 as an undergraduate student at Ohio State University. She currently serves on the GSA finance committee as treasurer of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, the educational unit of GSA. Fruhauf is a family gerontology specialist who studies multiple aspects of aging families and serves as director of HDFS Extension programs and coordinator of the gerontology interdisciplinary minor at CSU.

Research roots

Fruhauf’s interest in grandparent-grandchild relationships began during her undergraduate years, where she was an undergraduate research assistant on a grand parenting project. Her more recent engagement in a GSA interest group, Parents as Grandparents, cultivated her research in the direction of health and well-being among grandparents rearing their grandchildren. Her goal is to bridge the disconnect between self-reported, self-care practices by grandparents and their actual practices. Her work includes developing resources for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and she has done this in partnership with Colorado State University Extension Agents.

“Grandparents say they’re taking care of themselves, exercising and taking medications,” said Fruhauf, “but we don’t know the frequency to which they’re doing it.” She aims to promote the well-being of grandparents by understanding why they may fail to care for themselves and finding ways to encourage positive, healthy behaviors. Her work has also delved into the relationships of GLBT grandparents coming out to their grandchildren.

Recently, Fruhauf secured five years of funding from the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk Grant Program through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the USDA, to continue her work to better the lives of grandparent caregivers. It is a joint state project where she works closely with colleagues at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is utilizing the grant to create a self-care program for grandparents and grandchildren, as well as webinar content for service providers such as family counselors and mental health workers. Fruhauf is building upon the already established program Powerful Tools for Caregivers to create a new program: Powerful Tools for Grandparents.

Effects of rearing grandchildren

“Our intervention responds to 20 years of research that says grandparents who rear grandchildren exhibit poorer physical and mental health than their same-age peers,” said Fruhauf. One year into the grant, she hopes to extend on the work of current programs such as Parenting a Second Time Around, which mostly focus on parenting skills education rather than well-being.

“We hope the intervention improves self-care for grandparents,” said Fruhauf. She is currently working with other faculty at Montana State University and Auburn to extend the reach of the program.

Fruhauf will be recognized with the new class of fellows during GSA’s 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans in November. The GSA is the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education and practice in the field of aging. GSA’s principal mission, and that of its 5,500 members, is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers and the general public.