“One hundred percent of living humans are aging every day,” said Dr. Lisa Hall. “But did you know that 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day? By 2030, 20% of the U.S. population will be older adults.”
Seniors active in community
“In Springfield, we have so many community members who are really concerned about the community and making the most of its members. We have some of these fantastic programs, such as Give Five,” she said.
This program takes retired seniors around the community to introduce them to several nonprofits. If they choose to volunteer, they commit to just five hours a month.
“What they’re really trying to do is bring the success, the creativity, the work ethic of older adults to the community and younger professionals,” said Hall. “We are trying to ride the trend – that demographic trend – that indicates that there’s so much creativity out there from people who are 55, 60, 65 plus at this point in time.”
Retirement: Perception vs. reality
At MSU, where the gerontology program has been around since 1980, students can choose to major or minor in gerontology. The training could prepare someone to work in a social services role or in a facility geared toward the aging population. But Hall says people across industries could find the knowledge useful, both personally and professionally.
“No matter what the job is, people will be working with older adults. That’s becoming increasingly true,” Hall said. “People are living longer. And many of them are living in a more healthy way. We have so many older adults that are not institutionalized. Only about 4% of people 65 and older are in skilled nursing facilities. Society really needs to adjust their thinking about where older adults are. Many older adults are incredibly productive and creative members of society.”
Thanks to community partners and active alumni from the program, Hall sees that Springfield is becoming a model retirement city. We are building programs to keep older Americans active and engaged in the community.
The evolution of aging studies
She sees people looking at the positives of aging. People are asking, “What can we contribute?” instead of simply tracking the decline of abilities.
“There has been kind of an evolution in aging studies. Originally it was from a biological perspective. When we simply focus on the biological aspects of aging, it’s rather negative. We focus on the decline, the kinds of things that we lose,” Hall said.
Gerontology is multidisciplinary, she added.
“There’s so much more to life than just the physical body. We can focus on relationships and creativity. We can focus on many things that improve over the life course. It gives a whole new meaning and purpose to people.”