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Dr. Corinna Tanner Presents at BYU Gerontology Conference on Value of Familism

On March 13, 2024, BYU College of Nursing Assistant Professor, Corinna Trujillo Tanner presented her research at the 33rd Annual BYU Gerontology Conference. Her presentation was entitled “Hispanic Familismo as a Buffer Against Social Isolation in Individuals with Sensory Impairments”.

Dr. Tanner captured the audience by playing traditional Mexican music while displaying a colorful image of a Hispanic family interacting around a table for a meal. She read a beautiful poem by Joy Harjo entitled “Perhaps the World Ends Here” about the discussions, growth, stories, strength, and connections shared around the family table.

She went on to explain that the term familism, or familismo, “describes a cultural ideology which prioritizes the needs of the family,” quoting other research which defines it as a “strong identification and attachment of individuals with their families, as well as concepts like loyalty, reciprocity, and solidarity among all family members.”1

Dr. Tanner shared her research findings which have been published in peer-reviewed articles such as, Journal of Aging and Health, The Journals of Gerontology, and National Library of Medicine. Research shows that individuals with sensory disabilities, including vision and hearing impairments, have increased risk for social isolation. Dr. Tanner shared, “Among US non-Hispanics, sensory difficulty contributes to social isolation to a greater extent than it does for Hispanics. In general, social isolation was greater among the non-Hispanic individuals. So, we believe that this familism is protective and should be valued and cherished, not only for the delicious food and the fun company around the table, but also because it’s very protective of health, especially among individuals with sensory disabilities.”

Dr. Tanner hopes that future research opportunities might allow her to gather more qualitative data by interviewing Hispanic families in which an older family member has a sensory disability. She’d like to learn some of the ways that these families are providing support for that individual and how the individual feels needed and useful in their family structure, even while living with a disability.

The Conference concluded with a panel discussion with fellow presenters, Associate Professor of Family Life, Alex Jensen and Professor of Psychology, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad. One audience member asked panelists how their research has changed their perspective on aging. Corinna Tanner responded with powerful insights saying, “Investing in those relationships, whether they be friendships or family relationships, just becomes increasingly important to me the more I learn about them."

In regards to my own perspective on aging, having taught End-of-Life Care and also Nursing Care of the Older Adult courses a few times now, I have really gained this perspective: before we came here we were immortal and when we leave here, we will be immortal again. This little window of time we have [on earth] is the only opportunity that we will have in all of eternity to understand what it means to be mortal.
Dr. Tanner

And that comes with the frailties of mortality. A tree through the seasons comes up as a little sprout, gets leafy, bears fruit, and then becomes dry and withered, barren, cold, brittle, and then dies. We will physically and spiritually experience what that feels like. I’m not saying that the illnesses and frailties that come with aging are necessarily desirable. But there is incredible value and worth in these experiences that we’re having…Personally, I’m trying to embrace mortality and really lean into it and feel it…It’s my only chance to be in a body that is mortal. I think it’s a treasure.”

The BYU Gerontology Conference was March 12-13, 2024 and held in BYU’s Hinckley Alumni Center. Over the course of the two-day Conference there were music presentations, awards, a keynote address by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, poster presentations, senior health presentations, and a panel discussion as mentioned above. According to the BYU Gerontology website:

  • “The annual Russell B. Clark Gerontology Conference brings together faculty and students to learn about and discuss issues that many people deal with in their later years. We hear from leading scholars in the field and at BYU regarding these topics. Due to the growing number of seniors as the US population ages, topics addressed at the Gerontology Conference are likely relevant to everyone on campus either personally, with extended family, or professionally. This conference honors the life and contributions of centenarian Dr. Russell B. Clark, whose support of the BYU Gerontology Conference over the years reflected his long-term interest in promoting education and research on aging issues and enhancing the well-being of older adults.”



Dr. Corinna Trujillo Tanner joined the Brigham Young University College of Nursing as an Assistant Professor in 2019, after completing her PhD and a two-year National Institutes of Health Research Fellowship in cancer, aging and end of life. She maintains an ongoing clinical practice at the University of Utah Moran Eye Center, where she has worked for 10 years creating a curriculum designed to help individuals with vision loss maintain their independence and quality of life. She holds post master’s certificates in Gerontology, Adult Nurse Practitioner training, and an International Certificate in Caring and Healing. She is passionate about guiding students in honoring and fostering late life potential, creating an age-inclusive culture, and changing what it means to be blind.

1. Sabogal F, Marin G, Otero-Sabogal R, Marin B, Perez-Stable E. Hispanic Familism and Acculturation: What changes and what doesn’t? Hisp J Behav Sci. 1987;(4):397–412.