The AARP Massachusetts Executive Council (EC) provides strategic direction for AARP at the state level. The volunteer board is led by State President Sandra Harris. Each member brings uniquely valuable skills and experience to AARP.
PRESIDENT, Sandra Harris began her tenure as State President in January 2019. She was formerly a member of the AARP Massachusetts Executive Council, having joined in 2018. Her passion lies with advocating creative solutions and supportive environments that encourage elders to live at the highest level possible for longer periods of time. For the last 20 years, Harris has served as principal of S Harris Interiors, a firm specializing in senior living design. Her portfolio includes both independent and assisted living, and designing special care environments for residents living with dementia and in skilled nursing and adult day care facilities. Harris’ design philosophy is based on the belief that every person is precious, that people are more than things, and the success of her community work is measured by how well it enhances the life and dignity of its residents. She also believes that the true measure of a civilization is based on how it treats its frail elderly. Harris has worked extensively with the City of Boston Commissioner on Affairs of the Elderly, AARP Massachusetts, and UMass Boston on the Age-Friendly Boston initiative from its inception. She has participated in the Age Friendly Action Planning Committee, in neighborhood forums and focus groups, and spearheaded the development of the Age Friendly Boston “Celebrating the Voices” video and photo exhibit. Harris holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting and a Master’s degree in Interior Design.
Anita Albright, M.A. is a respected management professional with 35 years’ experience working with older adults and people with disabilities in community and health care settings. While at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, she established a network of federally funded Healthy Aging programs across the Commonwealth. In 2011, Ms. Albright was appointed by US Secretary of Health and Human Services to the National Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services. She has an ongoing commitment to support Livable and Age Friendly Communities.
Kathleen Bowler joined the EC in 2015 and is the Director for Technical Assistance, Training, and Special Events at the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging and Senior Center Directors (MCOA). She has held this post since January, 2015. Prior to that, she was the Executive Director of the Holyoke Council on Aging for 26 years where she spearheaded the construction of a new Senior Center and worked in partnership with a variety of community groups to provide services and programs for older adults. Recognized by a number of groups for her work at the local level, she was recognized by MCOA as the Director of the Year for her work keeping the Holyoke COA open during a series of Proposition 2 ½ override attempts. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Holyoke Health Center and Loomis Communities. She is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and received a Certificate in Gerontology from the Worcester Consortium of Higher Education.
Kun Chang is the regional coordinator and project director for the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, and the assistant executive director for the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center. Kun has extensive social work and non-profit agency management experience, integrating his expertise in the areas of social services, long term care, community outreach, community education, adult day health care, health insurance, managed care, Alzheimer and Dementia services, and older worker job training for Asian elders. Kun has provided consultation to several community-based organizations and research institutions in the design and development of integrated elderly services for Asian communities. In addition, he is involved in a consulting capacity with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the National Alzheimer’s Association, and AARP, focusing on integrated health and social services for Asian seniors. Kun is a member of the Advisory Council for the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), South Shore Elder Services, and the South Shore Workforce Investment Board in Massachusetts, and has served on numerous advisory councils and boards in state and national organizations. In the past 25 years, he has worked with a variety of coalitions and groups of service providers on the national, state, and local level, focusing on increasing effectiveness in responding to the growing diversity of elders and of the overall workforce. He received his Master’s degree in Social Work from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Gerald Flaherty, who joined the EC in 2015, was Vice President for Medical & Scientific Programs at the Alzheimer’s Association of MA/NH, where he spent 24 years. He created and led both the departments of Medicine & Science and Communications, served in consultant or advisory roles for many of Boston’s medical and research centers, and on advisory committees for four Massachusetts gubernatorial administrations on issues ranging from cognitive health to corrections policy. Previously he served on the staff of the late Sen. Royal L. Bolling, Sr., of Boston, focusing on public health and criminal justice issues. He is author/co-author of two award-winning books, and his professional articles and fiction have appeared in journals in the U.S. and Canada. Gerald was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and holds a BA in English Literature from UMass Boston, which he attended on the GI Bill. Raised in Boston’s Roxbury community, he now lives in Marion with his wife, Diane Lopes Flaherty.
Sonja M. Spears is the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. Before returning to her hometown Boston, she practiced law then served twelve years as a judge in New Orleans before retiring. Sonja teaches social justice classes to undergraduate and graduate students at Tufts University, and a yearly intensive trial advocacy course at Harvard Law School. She taught Trial Advocacy at Tulane Law School for approximately nine years before returning to Boston. Sonja is currently a member of the National Health Care for the Homeless Diversity and Inclusion Learning Collaborative.
Deborah Washington, Ph.D., R.N., has been director of diversity for Patient Care Services at Massachusetts General Hospital since 1995. Deb received the 2015 Prism Award from the American Organization for Nurse Executives for her nationally recognized work in diversity. Deb is also national co-chair for the State Action Coalitions Diversity Steering Committee for the Future of Nursing Campaign. Deb has twice received the Rosoff Award, which is sponsored by the Ad Club, and received a Champion in Health Care award from the Boston Business Journal. While serving on several boards, Deb also does anti-racism work with community-based groups. As Church Moderator of Old South Church in Boston, Deb pursues her passion for social justice work as part of a vibrant faith community.
This story is provided by AARP Massachusetts. Visit the AARP Massachusetts page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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