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 Institute

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 residents, customers, and employees.

Dr. Smith’s recent and ongoing research projects include Shifting Views of Aging to Promote Wellness Among Independent Older Adults, Survey of Resident Wellness Activity Preferences, and Development of a Happiness Index for Life Plan Communities.

Selected Publications:

Smith, J. L., Bihary, J. G., O’Connor, D., Basic, A., & O’Brien, C. J. (2019). Impact of savoring ability on the relationship between older adults’ activity engagement and well-being. Journal of Applied Gerontology. Advance online publicationdoi:10.1177/0733464819871876

Smith, J. L., & Bryant, F. B. (2019). Enhancing positive perceptions of aging by savoring life lessons. Aging and Mental Health, 23, 762-770doi:10.1080/13607863.2018.1450840

Smith, J. L., & Hanni, A. A. (2019). Effects of a savoring intervention on resilience and well-being of older adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 38, 137-152. doi:10.1177/0733464817693375

Smith, J. L. (2018). Influence of senior living employees’ perceptions of aging on engagement and quality of resident interactions. Senior Housing and Care Journal, 26, 50-60.

Smith, J. L., & Bryant, F. B. (2017). 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 (pp. 139-156). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

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

Janis Sayer, PhD, MSW

Senior Research Associate

Dr. Sayer conducts research on psychological well-being and wellness among older adults. She assists Mather Institute with the Age Well Study, the Survey of Resident Wellness Activity Preferences, and other surveys of older adults. She also contributes research summaries to InvestigAge.

Selected Publications:

Basic, A., Sayer, J. (2020). Promising practices: Developing and implementing innovative approaches that are reshaping aging services. Poster presented at the American Society on Aging 2020 Aging in America Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Sayer, J., Smith, J., O’Brien, C., Bihary, J., O’Connor, D., Basic, A. (2019). Purpose and number of chronic conditions among older adults. Poster presented at the Gerontological Society of America 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting, Austin, TX.

Ajla Basic, BS

Project Coordinator

Since joining the Institute, Ms. Basic supports the completion of multiple research projects. She is a key team member on the Age Well Study, a five-year longitudinal study of health among Life Plan Community residents. In addition, she manages the Institute’s RFP program, which solicits and identifies Collaborative Research Partners. She also contributes research summaries to InvestigAge.

Ms. Basic is pursuing a PhD in Social–Applied Psychology.

Selected Publications:

Smith, J. L., Bihary, G. Joseph., O’Connor, D., Basic, A., & O’Brien, C. (2019). Impact of Savoring Ability on the Relationship Between Older Adults’ Activity Engagement and Well-Being. Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Smith, J. L., Bihary, G. Joseph., O’Connor, D., Basic, A., & O’Brien, C. (2019). Wellness among Life Plan Community Residents: Relationships between Culture and Outcomes. Seniors Housing & Care Journal.

Basic, A. (2017). Aging in the Workforce; undergraduate perceptions of immigrant older adults versus non-immigrant older adults. (Unpublished senior thesis). Loyola University, Chicago.

Dugan O’Connor, MS

Research Associate

Mr. O’Connor supports the Institute team by managing recruitment and data collection for ongoing research projects. He also contributes to Mather customer surveys and senior living trend studies.

Mr. O’Connor serves as associate managing editor for Seniors Housing & Care Journal, and contributes research summaries to InvestigAge. His recent projects include a survey of transparency in Life Plan Communities and assisting with the Age Well Study.

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