The inaugural meeting of the advisory council for The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center on Aging produced a lively discussion on potential projects, resource streams and community involvement.
The advisory group is comprised of Southern Miss faculty and staff as well as business professionals and residents from Jackson to the Gulf Coast. The kickoff meeting was held on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at Forrest General Hospital’s Support Services Building in Hattiesburg. Forrest General provided initial financial support when the Center on Aging was created this past June.
“This council is a key component of what we hope to do with the center,” said Dr. Mike Forster, dean of the College of Health at Southern Miss. “We need input, fresh ideas and strategies to help move our agenda forward.
“And there is a significant need for the Center on Aging both within the university environment and the community at large. Compelling demographics indicate that there is a growing demand for a work force to respond to an aging population.”
The center’s mission is to respond creatively to the myriad instructional, research and service challenges posed by the aging phenomenon in an inclusive and interdisciplinary manner, with special emphasis on local and regional needs for reliable information and skilled work force development.
Dr. Susan Hubble-Burchell, associate dean of the College of Health, and Dr. Susan Hrostowski, assistant professor of social work, serve as co-directors of the center. Each took turns highlighting the importance of the new center’s focus with power-point presentations to the advisory council.
Hrostowski noted that in the United States alone those over the age of 65 are projected to double in number between 2000 and 2030 from 35 million to 70 million.
“And as that burgeoning continues among the older population we are seeing fewer and fewer people going into careers that serve that segment,” said Hrostowski. “Part of our job must be to recruit more students with an emphasis in gerontology and related fields.”
Hrostowski emphasized the need to dispel certain myths about older adults.
“Too often you hear things associated with aging such as ‘they smell bad’ or ‘they’re grumpy’ when we ask students about the possibility of a career in this field,” she said. “We’re on a campaign here to bust those stereotypes.”
Several critical areas were highlighted during the advisory council meeting and targeted as possible front-burner projects. Chief among those are:
• Identify key issues facing the community
• Recruit students, beginning on the high school level
• Peer-to-peer training that is community-based. Help everyone involved become “gerontologically capable.”
• Share the latest advances in the treatment of gerontology
“One of our primary goals is to establish a constant flow between the university and the community,” said Hubble-Burchell. “Having an advisory council such as this will assist greatly in that effort. We are open to suggestions for training, education, resources and anything else that will enable us to fulfill the mission of improving the quality of life for older Americans.”
For more information about the advisory council and the Center on Aging, call 601-266-5253.
Susan Hubble-Burchell, left, and Susan Hrostowski discuss project ideas during the inaugural meeting of the advisory council for the Center on Aging Dec. 15 at the Forrest General Hospital Support Services Building. Hubble-Burchell and Hrostowski are co-directors of the center, which is located in the College of Health at The University of Southern Mississippi. (Office of University Communications photo by Van Arnold)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.