AgeAlive: Promoting Lifelong Wellbeing

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AgeAlive is a recently established program within the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. The timing could not be better. The U.S. population is rapidly aging which has, or soon will have, profound and wide-ranging effects on all of us, both individually and collectively. At MSU, nearly a quarter of staff and faculty are retirement eligible. Students in a wide array of major fields will be working with older adults once they graduate. There is an incredible amount of aging-related activity happening across campus. Yet, until now, we have not had a clear handle on the breadth and depth of these assets.


AgeAlive aims to elevate and leverage MSU’s strengths related to aging, including research, education, service, and outreach spanning all disciplines across all MSU units that are addressing major aging issues. Plans for achieving this goal include developing a centralized hub for tracking MSU aging assets, information exchange, collaboration building, fostering and celebrating MSU and partnership success, and promoting a culture of positive aging. It will benefit all AgeAlive affiliates including students, staff, faculty, retirees, alumni, and community partners. 

Establishing AgeAlive represents a huge step forward for MSU, which has had a long history of academic programs and millions in external research funding related to aging. Over the past fifty years, there have been multiple efforts to bring various aspects of these assets together, some of which have succeeded. However, this is the first time a program has been created to build a bridge across all that is happening on campus related to aging. For the first time, MSU will have a clear inventory of aging related activity in research, teaching, service, and outreach that will make it possible to promote and leverage the collective portfolio worldwide. 

Everyone engaged in these activities will have the opportunity to affiliate with AgeAlive and have access to its databank, communication venues, updates, awards, advocacy efforts, and more. It plans to be a dynamic entity that fully engages community partners. Longer-range goals include real-world training labs for medical students, social workers, personal care aides; K-12 outreach such as high school tech training and positive aging programs for pre-school and young children; and quality of life resources and programming for both active and frail older adults, and caregivers.

AgeAlive grows out of a committee of MSU and community members committed to these goals who have been meeting monthly for the past three years and who early on developed a mission statement and strategic plan to guide their efforts. The group has grown in size and recognition and now participates in discussions across campus on issues and initiatives affecting MSU’s long-range planning. It now has an academic home within the department of Family and Community Medicine, chaired by Dr. Amy Keenum. The founding committee serves as the AgeAlive Advisory Board. It is comprised of MSU faculty, staff, retirees, emeriti, and community members.

A number of key underlying principles distinguish AgeAlive including its focus on quality of life throughout the lifespan. This means valuing all ages, promoting a holistic view of health, wellbeing, and quality of life that recognizes and supports the importance of meaning, purpose, and the arts and humanities, and the need for rich, engaged university-community partnerships. As such, it has six specific objectives:

  • Join all other Big 10 and the majority of AAU Universities by establishing a cohesive, respected initiative focused on major aging issues through research, education, training, service and outreach.
  • Establish a strong network of Affiliates that cross all boundaries to promote maximum inclusivity, diversity, and interdisciplinary/intergenerational aging-related research, service and educational opportunities.
  • Enhance faculty and partner portfolios through identifying and affiliating with a clearly defined aging entity with access to a network of leaders, scholars, potential collaborators in all fields, and community members.
  • Engage in active university-community partnerships to create environments that recognize and support a rich quality of life throughout the lifespan.
  • Promote a holistic view of health, wellbeing, and quality of life that recognizes and supports the value of meaning, purpose, and the arts and humanities.
  • Be a force for promoting a positive “agescape” that values and respects persons of all ages.

Age Alive is consistent with MSU’s land-grant mission, values, Bolder by Design approach, the 60/50 Elder Rights Committee goals, and Healthy Campus and Work Life programs. This investment will lead to untold advances for MSU in the field of aging including new collaborations that will ultimately increase external research funding and position MSU for NIH Center funding and major donor and foundation funding in support of a wide array of programming. For more information, contact Dr. Luz at clare.luz@hc.msu.edu or 517-353-8814.

 

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Clare Luz, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and founding director of AgeAlive. She is a nationally recognized gerontologist with extensive clinical and research experience in the aging field particularly related to the eldercare workforce and the intersection of the arts, humanities, and health.