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Conference addresses needs for aging population

aging_conference3
Photo: Bo Anderson / Lanthorn

GVL/Bo Anderson

Richard Graves, former Boston Marathon participant and currrent World Senior Games 100m dash runner, demonstrates stretching techniques during a presentation at the 8th Annual Art & Science of Aging Conference at GVSU.

The eighth annual Art and Science of Aging Conference, held on Feb. 8, hosted students, professors and researchers from Grand Valley State University and other institutions around the U.S. to discuss the different aspects of aging healthily.

The theme for the conference concentrated on ‘The Age of Empowerment,” with presentations and panels discussing topics like age-related diseases, the importance of food to preserve health and age-related communities. According to the conference website, the programs are designed to teach participants how to work with and for older adults.

Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, addressed the issue of living healthily to an old age.

Priscilla Kimboko, a professor in GVSU’s School of Public, Nonprofit & Health Administration is coordinator for the event.

The event is organized by volunteers, but professional presentations are mixed into the sessions, Kimboko said.

“We also have student research posters on aging by students in courses in psychology and social work,” Kimboko said. “(The research posters) are or will be posted on the (conference webpage).”

The topic of prevention and aging is a relevant topic to not only GVSU but West Michigan in general. In January, Seidman College of Business professors Sonia Dalmia and Paul Isely released a study, titled “Health Check: Analyzing Trends in West Michigan 2013,” which found West Michigan’s youth population to be in decline and age-related health costs to be rising.

The study focuses on the current and future environment in West Michigan related to the health field, including job openings, patient demographics, and many other areas.

The conclusion that age-related health cost would rise is due to the finding that there are more people in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties that are between the ages of 45-64 than 20-34.

The findings of the study are similar to the 2012 “Health Check,” Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health, told GVSU News and Information Services. Nagelkerk added that the report is a good way to get a feel for where the health community is going in the future.

While the “Health Check” study identifies what the future holds for the health field in West Michigan, the Art and Science of Aging Conference is prepping both GVSU students, and faculty about real world opportunities to showcase their knowledge.

Jackie Main, who presented as a GVSU student at the 2012 Art and Science of Aging Conference, said the program helped her learn to present her topic clearly to an unfamiliar audience.

“This is something that I will have to know how to do as a future occupational therapist,” Main said. “Being able to explain treatment plans and communicate with patients in ways that will help them to understand why treatment is important.”

Not only did Main gain presentation experience and verbal and public speaking skills, but she said the conference helped further her scholarly research.

“The research I presented on last year at the conference actually is in press to be published in the Journal of Health Education and Behavior,” Main said. “I am a co-author of the paper.”

For more information about the Art and Science of Aging Conference or to see past student presentations, visit www.gvsu.edu/gerontology.

To read more from the “Health Check”, go to www.gvsu.edu/healthcheck.htm.

khaight@lanthorn.com



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