Advancing Aging Research & Education at Washington University: Preparing for Longer, Productive Lives
“Students may live to age 100”
– Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton
This was just one of the messages at the 19th Annual Friedman Lecture & Awards recently presented by the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging. Center Director Nancy Morrow–Howell, introduced the event to nearly 200 attendees who also heard a keynote address from Chancellor Mark Wrighton entitled, “Advancing Aging Research & Education at Washington University: Preparing for Longer, Productive Lives”.
Morrow-Howell spoke of various classes and programs offered by Washington University in St. Louis and the Friedman Center, which is part of the Institute for Public Health.
Classes such as “When I’m 64” engage college-aged students in opportunities and the challenges of aging, while a “Crash Course in Aging” offers information to the university community and beyond on topics such as clothing innovations to guidelines on the proper way to fall to avoid injury. The Friedman Center’s “Issues in Aging” series spotlights research being done on both sides of the campus – in psychology, architecture, and social work on the Danforth campus and in medicine, occupational therapy, and neurology on the medical school campus. She also described several intergenerational housing projects, where students are living with older homeowners or in senior residential facilities. Morrow-Howell’s presentation showed that there are a myriad of ways that older and younger students can learn about aging at Washington University.
Each year, the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging presents awards to recognize professionals providing outstanding service in the field of aging. Each awardee receives a $3,000 monetary award which can be used toward the cost of conferences, books/journals, trainings, software or other professional needs.
The Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Award for Excellence in Service to Older Adults
2019 Awardee – Marla Berg-Weger
The purpose of this award is to recognize an individual who has made outstanding contributions in service to older adults through practice, education, advocacy or research. The award is supported by The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital from the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Fund.
Marla Berg-Weger, Ph.D., LCSW is a professor at Saint Louis University School of Social Work; the Executive Director for Gateway Geriatric Education Center (GEC); and a Gerontological Society of America Fellow. She completed her doctoral degree in 1993 at the Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work, staying at the Office of Field Education until 1995. She joined the faculty at Saint Louis University in 1995 and has served as the Director of Field Education, School of Social Work; Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs; and Interim Dean, College of Public Service and School for Professional Studies. Her scholarly activity focuses on family caregiving, older adult mobility and non-pharmacologic interventions among dementia patients.
The Alene and Meyer Kopolow Award for Geriatrics, Psychiatry and Neurology
2019 Awardee – Lenise Cummings-Vaughn, MD, CMD
The purpose of this award is to recognize stellar contributions to the care of older adults by a resident, post-residency fellow or junior faculty member in neurology, psychiatry, medicine or related disciplines. Eligible individuals may also have had experience in at least one of the following geriatric service areas: direct patient care, didactic teaching, conferences, or national/international meetings and, patient-oriented or basic research that addresses aging issues. The award is supported by the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital from the Alene and Meyer Kopolow Fund for Geriatrics, Psychiatry and Neurology.
Dr. Cummings-Vaughn is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science at Washington University in Saint Louis and provides care for older adults in the outpatient, inpatient and long-term care settings. She is the Medical Director for the Stay Healthy Clinic and Outpatient Program, the primary readmission prevention program at Barnes Jewish Hospital and the Associate Medical Director for Parc Provence Nursing Home. Cummings-Vaughn is also a clinician for the Memory and Aging Project at the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis. Her scholarly activity focuses on understanding factors that lead to poor outcomes for older adults and the racial and ethnic differences in disease identification and outcomes.
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, PhD, led his address by noting the challenges of aging in our society: health, social, economic and political–all challenges WashU targeted as it founded the Center for Aging in 1998 as a cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Chancellor Wrighton enlightened the audience on a few key statistics about our current aging population: In the year 1900, only 4% of the U.S. population was age 65 years or older. That figure rose to 15% in the year 2000 and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25% of the population will be age 65 in the next 20 years. In fact, statistics show that the oldest population is now experiencing the fastest growth. Chancellor Wrighton added, “We can expect a 400% increase in centenarians (those living at 100 years old) by 2030.”
The chancellor quoted the latest figures showing that if a female reaches age 65 today, she can expect to live to age 85. Males who reach 65 today have a life expectancy of age 83. Today’s top five causes of mortality include heart disease (in the number one spot), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries and stroke, Wrighton reported.
Alzheimers continues to be one of the biggest fears among older adults in the U.S. It’s also the most costly of all diseases peaking at more than $172 billion each year and annually, it kills more Americans than breast and prostate cancer combined, said Wrighton. WashU’s Knight ADRC program is helping establish a worldwide plan that, among other accomplishments, is helping combat the disease through the development of imaging and biomarkers to help recognize the disease in patients decades before symptoms actually develop.
Chancellor Wrighton closed his talk by acknowledging Washington University’s other aging-related programs, including Washington University for Life, an initiative to increase age-diversity on campus and provide education across the longer life course.
One final surprise announcement was the new “Mark S. Wrighton Graduate Student Research Award on Aging”. To be awarded in 2020 by the Friedman Center for Aging, the new award will recognize graduate students who show outstanding promise as researchers on aging-related topics relevant to older adults.
The lecture and awards were followed by a reception and a poster session featuring student projects surrounding aging-related topics and issues.