GV presents sixth annual aging conference

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu
Priscilla Kimboko

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu Priscilla Kimboko

Marcus J. Reynolds

The elderly are often shown sitting in rocking chairs and suffering from constant illness, but Grand Valley State University will host a conference in February to help dispel myths about growing old.

GVSU’s sixth annual Art and Science of Aging Conference will bring together national experts with local professionals and faculty to address “Optimal Aging: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

Priscilla Kimboko, GVSU professor of gerontology (aging), has helped coordinate the conference since its inception.

She said the way humans age often relates to choices made, lifestyle, attitudes, fear and staying in the comfort zone.

“Even in old age people can learn new things,” said. “The conference is able to bring a positive perspective.”

The conference will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 11 in the Loosemore Auditorium.

It will open with “The Modern Fountain of Youth: an Ecology of Optimal Aging,” a presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Larry Lawhorne, director of geriatrics at the Wright State Boonshoft School of Medicine.

A series of 12 sessions will cover topics such as eating healthy, successful aging and plant-based therapies within two categories of the aging experience: everyday aging and proactive aging.

The conference marketing flyer features portraits of cultural and cinematic icons Betty White and Sidney Poitier.

“These people – you can see throughout their careers – have aged well,” Kimboko said. “The conference is trying to combat the negative stereotypes about aging.”

Kimboko said she does not want the public to feel the conference is limited to university faculty and students only. The information presented will be accessible to a general audience.

“Sessions give the public information and tools on how to age positively,” she said.

GVSU students will present research on aging in poster format to allow attendees to engage in discussion of the research.

“Students should expect to identify possible opportunities for employment in the gerontology field and topics that affect this group,” said GVSU Health and Wellness coordinator Lindsey DesArmo, who oversees vendors and the Zumba activity session. “Not only are students going to be potentially employed in a field focused on gerontology, but even if it’s not their major, they will be working with and interacting with these individuals daily.”

Local organizations such as the Gerontology Network and the Alzheimer’s Association will be on site to provide resources.

Irene Fountain, administrative assistant to the dean of graduate studies, volunteers every year at the conference. She said although students might not be interested in gerontology as a career, the conference will still provide information applicable to their lives.

“As an undergraduate student, they can attend workshops that pertain to their family situation, such as parents and grandparents,” she said. “Everyone is going to face this aging issue.”

The day will close with an interactive panel discussion in which the panelists will discuss moments that led them to make major life changes.

“Knowing how to plan ahead and adapt to aging with a positive mindset is a major benefit,” Fountain said.

The conference is open to the public and people of all ages.

Registration can be completed online at www.gvsu.edu/gerontology.

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