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Conference on Aging Planned to Highlight Population Change, Public Policy Implications

Ferris State UniversityA variety of Ferris State University professors and staff will collaborate in a two-day event, the Conference on Aging-Meeting the Challenges of an Aging Population, on Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8 on the Big Rapids, Mich. campus.

Steven Karnes, an assistant professor of Health Care Systems Management in the College of Health Professions, said the idea for the conference came from his continuing discussions with Robert von der Osten, a professor in Languages and Literature in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education.

“I have 30 years of experience in long-term care administration, and Robert, like many people his age, is going through issues with aging parents,” Karnes said. “The population challenge is going to be very present, and the idea of the conference just kind of bubbled up as a result of our discussions.”

Conference on Aging events will be held in the Interdisciplinary Resource Center, the IRC Connector, and the College of Business building. Karnes said that while many of their breakout sessions address specific public health concerns for the aging population, others consider music, poetry and philosophy.

“The demographic change is an issue that we’d like all faculty to consider,” Karnes said. “All these professors’ subject areas are going to be impacted by this issue. People will want houses designed so they can age in them, self-driving cars are being proposed. There will be issues in law enforcement and nutrition, as they relate to an older population.”

The keynote speaker for the conference, Robyn Stone (pictured), is the executive Robyn Stonedirector of Leading Age: Center for Applied Research in Washington, D.C. Her talk on Thursday evening, April 7 will consider “Workforce Implications for an Aging Society.”

“She has many years of public health experience, specific to issues for the aging,” Karnes said. “The future will present changing needs for our society, as the number of older folks increase.”

Students can also benefit from the conference, as there will be scholarship prizes awarded for winning entries in a juried poster board competition.

“They are being asked to enter a marketplace with a greater number of older folks,” Karnes said. “It will certainly impact business, and marketing. We hope this focus helps them educate themselves to prepare for what will be significant changes.”

Karnes described the Conference on Aging as an “initial effort” that is free to attend, with an emphasis on thought and discussion regarding population changes, and their impact.

“Public policy implications are too great for this event,” Karnes said. “We’re not at the point of preparing recommendations, this is about raising awareness.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Robyn Stone, executive director of @Leading Age Center for Applied Research is the keynote speaker during the Conference on Aging- Meeting the Challenges of an Aging Population, set for Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8 on the Ferris State University campus.