Learning about aging: A multidisciplinary approach

Written by Asia Parson, BS candidate at Washington University in St. Louis and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research ProgramAging and Neurological Disease Track

I absolutely love the Summer Research Program at Washington University in St. Louis. My program’s focus is on older adults and all of the things that go into their mental and physical wellness.

First, I didn’t expect this to be such an expansive topic. Because this is a public health topic, I thought it would be a narrow subject primarily about dementia and studying the symptoms that come along with it. But I was very wrong. We looked at it on a multidisciplinary level and at various aspects of life that we may not usually consider.

For example, one of my favorite lectures was by Dr. Mary Ruppert-Stroescu. She is an Associate Professor in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. When I saw her listed on the schedule to speak I was curious how fashion could possibly be related to the public health and older adults, but I was blown away by her presentation.

Not only did she explain fashion and the importance of clothing in an older adult’s life, but she also connected clothing with engineering and with medical equipment. I had never seen so many seemingly un-correlated fields working together and filling in the missing links for each other. This is amazing to me. It pushes you to think outside of the box and it challenges linear thinking.

In this program I am always surprised with new information and I am becoming more aware of the less obvious factors that can affect older adults. Overall, I am greatly enjoying my experience in this program, and I know I will be using the knowledge learned within my own future.