Meet the Experts

Meet Julie Overton!

Meet Julie Overton!

Julie Overton, MSG, MHA is the Senior Learning and Development Specialist of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence. In this role, Julie co-instructs several USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology graduate school courses, coordinates and teaches our Executive Certificate in Home Modification Program, and conducts research on home modification policies and programs as part of our Administration for Community Living grant.

How did you become interested in this field?

I was very close to my grandparents growing up, and I always appreciated their wisdom and insights. While earning my Undergraduate degree in sociology in 1986, an internship in a skilled nursing facility convinced me that there needed to be supportive housing alternatives for all ages. I was struck by the number of residents who did not need 24-hour nursing care, yet had no other options due to payment mechanisms and a serious lack of home modification and supportive housing resources in the community. Additionally, my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 1990 and my husband’s sudden deafness while in the Navy has made maximizing independence for people of all ages a personal goal. In my three decades in this field, it’s been a true privilege to see it grow and change.

What are your research interests?

My research and training activities over the past three decades have focused on the analysis and compilation of national, state and local home modification efforts, and on ascertaining the impact of the physical home environment on well-being. Innovations in this field are occurring everyday thanks to dedicated agencies and professionals. My focus is on getting these models and strategies into the hands of busy and committed professionals who can use them in a practical manner.

What do you wish people knew about home modifications?

I really wish the perspective of home modifications would change. Too often, people consider home modifications as signifying a need for assistance and dependence vs. signifying proactive and normative changes that will maximize independence.

What is an accomplishment of which you are most proud?

I’m very proud of our Executive Certificate in Home Modification (ECHM) Program, which started about 15 years ago as one of the first professional training programs focused on the home environment. We started with one online course at a time when online education was minimal. The response was so great that we created a full rigorous 5-course Program that has educated over 1,200 professionals across the country. I love the level of interaction we have with students – both during the four months of each Program and after as ECHM Alumni. Our reach is national, and our students represent the many types of dedicated professionals who I wish were available to older adults when I started my career in the 1990s. I’m inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication to delivering quality home modifications, and I love my daily interaction with them.