About the Center on Aging
Message from the Director
The Center on Aging was established in 2008 following a generous philanthropic gift from Lois McClure of Shelburne, Vermont. She, like us who work within the Center, recognizes that major social, political, economic, and health issues loom in our future because of the significant demographic shift currently taking place, not only locally, but nationally and internationally as well. Of course, I refer to our aging population which will transform the way we think about important programs such as entitlements and health care delivery.
Just to cite a few graphic facts and figures that will illustrate my point, consider these. Over the next 20-30 years, the percent of people over the age of 65 in the United States will grow to 25%. This will happen sooner in Vermont, likely by 2025, making our state at that time the 6th or 7th oldest in the United States as measured by percent of the population over 65. We are already the 2nd oldest state based on median age. Concurrently, the ratio of people working to those who are retired and collecting entitlement benefits will shrink dramatically. Think of the implications for Medicare and Social Security benefits as contributions to those programs continue to decline. An even more startling fact is that the oldest of the old, those over 85 years, will increase by a factor of 2.5 during the same time period. Barring a medical breakthrough, 50% of those people will experience mild to moderate dementia which will dramatically increase health care costs beyond their current skyrocketing level.
In spite of these daunting facts and projections, I am optimistic about our aging future because of the vision of people like Lois McClure, and because of the extraordinary talents of faculty, students, and staff at UVM; and across the state. The Center was established to help harness the energy of those of us who recognize the myriad problems posed by our aging population, so that we can find solutions that modify outcomes in a meaningful and positive way. I believe that we are already making progress. The Center partners with community and state representatives to find ways to improve the health of our seniors, keep them out of nursing homes, and encourage them to remain as contributing members of the work force. We are exploring ways to develop programs and services for seniors that rely on volunteerism. Many of these are meant to be preventative to maintain good health and decrease the likelihood of frailty.
The Center supports a pilot grant program that provides funding for two years for faculty at UVM who are interested in pursuing research focused on gerontology or geriatric issues. These pilot grants are available to junior faculty who wish to launch their research careers; and also to established, more senior faculty who are interested in changing their research focus to explore opportunities in the field of aging research. We make one faculty award per year, with the expectation that this support will serve as a springboard to more significant, extramural funding for the creation of a long term research program in aging.
I am hopeful that as the Center grows over the next few years, we and our clinical and research partners will contribute to turning dire predictions about the consequences of an aging population into what has the potential to be a vibrant cohort of wise, healthy, and happy individuals who enrich us with their experience and ongoing contributions to our society.
William Pendlebury, M.D.
Director of Center on Aging
The mission of the Center on Aging at the University of Vermont is to forge an ongoing collaboration among faculty, students, staff and programs within the University of Vermont, The University of Vermont Medical Center, and the Vermont community to promote a sense of well being and a high quality of life for older adults. The Center seeks to engage interested parties who wish to partner in the development and execution of programs that facilitate the health and welfare of older adults. The cornerstones of the Center are:
- To coordinate and support collaborative gerontological and geriatric research on the campus of the University of Vermont
- To provide educational opportunities in gerontology and geriatrics to students, staff, faculty, the lay community, and health care and human service providers throughout the state and region
- To translate research outcomes and educational activities into policy and excellent practice across the medical and human service landscape of the community that we serve
Core Focus of the Center
The education core of the Center will strengthen geriatric and gerontology education of undergraduate, graduate, nursing, and medical students; resident physicians; practicing physicians; nurses; and other health care professionals of all disciplines. The Center will provide the resources to improve the expertise of all health care and human service providers throughout the state and the region relating to the issues of aging facing residents at various health stages from healthy to the frail elderly . In addition, the Center will facilitate education on aging issues for the lay community, policy makers, and for those in other professions who interact with older adults.
The research core of the Center will provide an infrastructure that will facilitate collaboration among investigators at the University including regularly scheduled conferences to assist investigators in the design and analysis of aging-related research. The Center will reflect the University’s initiative in integrated research and collaboration, bringing basic scientists and clinical researchers together in applied research protocols focused on problems of immediate importance to Vermont’s citizens with age-related diseases.
The social science and policy core of the Center will drive focused research and consultation to assist in major state policy decisions. Drawing from the diverse strengths of the University, the Center will be a new resource for Vermont, attracting external funding and forging academic collaborations to address specific questions underlying policy debates.