Center Benefits Aging U.P. Population
recently established a Center for Gerontological Studies to benefit
the Upper Peninsula’s
rural aging population through education, research and collaboration
with regional service providers.
and Social Work) is director of the center. She said a campus committee
spent a couple of years exploring ways that Northern might distinguish
itself in the area of gerontology.
the rural location in which we are located and the fact that the
average age of the population is increasing, we wanted to do something
in response to the unique aspects of that demographic,” Cianciolo
said. “We started academically, with the addition of a gerontology
minor to promote careers in aging, but we were simultaneously working
on a center. We consulted with John Krout, a nationally recognized
expert on rural aging, and the director of a very successful gerontology
center at Ithaca College
committee met with key decision makers on campus to outline what
needed to be done, and then sought support for the concept from
Rep. Bart Stupak and Sen. Debbie Stabenow. The lawmakers’ second
request for federal funding was successful. With help from $196,000
in grant money, the NMU Center for Gerontological Studies evolved
from an idea to a reality.
are really a collaborative arm of the community and we apply an
interdisciplinary, team approach,” Cianciolo said. “We don’t – and
won’t – provide direct services. But we can spark excitement about
careers in aging for students and those already in the field. Northern
is taking steps to conduct a regional needs assessment of the educational
and specialized training needs of service providers and may be in
the position to help to develop programs that will meet those needs.
We can also help in the area of research about older adults, which
is typically lacking in rural areas. For example, we could potentially
develop programs in nursing homes that would help patients and their
families make the transition from the community to an institution.”
offers the following examples of research topics either under way
or in the formative stages that might ultimately benefit the aging
population: using mental rotation tasks to make comparisons between
people with Parkinson’s disease and their peers without the condition;
facilitating more effective communication between patients with
dementia and their caregivers; studying casino activity and its
impact on older adults; promoting healthy behaviors; and investigating
the benefits of animal-assisted therapy.
center also offers public presentations on relevant topics such
as elder law, active aging, and Native American elders. The next
event is scheduled from 7-8 p.m. Thursday, April 15,
in Pioneer B in the University
Peter Lichtenberg, director of the Institute
will present, “What Michigan
Needs to do About Dementia.”
Lichtenberg will review a recent report by the Michigan Dementia
Coalition, which he chairs.
have a good relationship with the institute at Wayne
Cianciolo added. “Our center is like their rural counterpart, so
we can do some urban and rural comparatives.”
said there are a disproportionate number of older adults “aging
in place” in the Upper Peninsula,
while younger people leave the area for employment opportunities.
There is also an influx of newly retired people who choose to live
out their remaining years in the region.
aging population here has unique needs,” Cianciolo said. “Weather
is literally a factor. Other issues are transportation, the distance
between services, accessibility to cost-effective and quality continuing
education, and funding for services given the relatively small population
base. Older adults are not a liability by any means – they are assets
to a community. But they do face unique challenges. The goal of
the center is to promote education, research and collaborative efforts
that benefit older adults and enhance their quality of life.”