News Health Equity

Engaging older adults in shaping Ferguson’s future

Nancy Morrow-Howell, director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging, was awarded one of the Ferguson Academic Seed Fund Grants for the spring 2015 cycle. Her project, titled “Engaging Older Adults in Shaping Ferguson’s Future,” aims to document the experiences of older adults in the recent events in Ferguson and nearby communities in north St. Louis county and help ensure the inclusion of older adults in community-wide initiatives. This work will focus initially in the Ferguson area, but has potential to impact the larger St. Louis region and the ways we address the challenges of an aging population, socio-economic disparities, and civic unrest.

As noted in the grant proposal, older adults over 65 currently make up 15% of St. Louis County’s population, and this number will continue to increase as Baby Boomers get older. And “within Ferguson alone, rates of older adults living below poverty can range from less than 10% in some areas to up to 39% in others.” Population aging and economic disparities are key issues for sustainable urbanism in Ferguson and across the St. Louis region.

The project will focus on the potential for older adults to contribute to community development efforts. This work builds on the ideas of successful aging, productive aging, age-friendly communities and civic engagement of older adult. Making these connections has the potential to improve the well-being of not only the individuals involved, but also improve and strengthen the overall community.

The project will involve three phases over twelve months:

  • Assessment and information gathering to understand the current status of older adults living in Ferguson and nearby communities;
  • Engagement, through focus groups and interviews with older adults; and
  • Strategy development for longer-term community projects and research.

A number of partners are involved with the project, including two academic institutions and three large community organizations. These include Washington University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging, St. Louis County’s Successful Aging Initiative, and Better Family Life.

About the Ferguson Academic Seed Fund Program

Washington University’s Ferguson Academic Seed Fund was established to “help fund efforts that facilitate intellectual discourse, support curricular innovation, promote new research, pilot programs for larger intellectual undertakings, or invite academic residencies on issues and topics that underscore root causes for recent events in our region and around the country.” The Institute for Public Health is also offering a matching grant for projects that address a problem related to some aspect of public health. Learn more.