Iowa State to host statewide rural aging conference on April 3

AMES, Iowa -- The research is clear that Americans are living longer. But along with that extended longevity come quality of life concerns for an aging population. That's one reason why statewide scholars on aging research come together bi-annually for a conference that discusses ways to improve people's lives as they age.

This year's "Rural Aging Conference: Living and Aging Well" will be held at Iowa State University in the Scheman Building on Friday, April 3. The day-long conference will feature presentations by six leading scholars.

"The conference is open to researchers and practitioners from across the state who are interested in adult development and aging," said Jennifer Margrett, an ISU assistant professor of human development and family studies who is one of the conference organizers. "Conference attendees include academic researchers, as well as professionals who actively work with older adults and their families."

  • Marcia Ory, director of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-sponsored Active for Life® National Program Office and a Regents Professor of social and behavioral health in the School of Rural Public Health at Texas A&M University, will open the conference at 9:15 a.m. with the keynote address. She will discuss self-management strategies and the prevention and management of chronic illness.
  • D. Lee Alekel, an Iowa State professor of food science and human nutrition and interim associate director of ISU's Nutrition and Wellness Research Center, will give the 10:30 a.m. presentation, "Nutrition Choices for Healthy Living as We Age." Alekel was one of the authors on a clinical study of postmenopausal women -- published last year in the European Journal of Endocrinology -- that found that minimizing weight gain during the menopausal transition may optimize appetitive hormones, thereby facilitating appetite control and weight maintenance.
  • ISU Associate Professor of Kinesiology Marian Kohut will present "Aging, Exercise and Wellness" at 11:15 a.m. Kohut's research into the effects of exercise and aging on the human immune system has earned her national and international recognition. She was the first to demonstrate the beneficial effects of exercise on vaccine responses in older adults. Two years ago, Kohut and her research team earned a $2.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the role of exercise in aging and resistance to influenza infection.
  • Howard Karl Butcher, an associate professor in the University of Iowa's College of Nursing, will give the 1:15 p.m. presentation, "How Writing Reduces Stress: The Family Caregiver Writing Research Program." Butcher is developing research programs designed to relieve family caregiver burden and dispiritedness in later life.
  • Lisa Skemp, an associate professor in adult and gerontology study at the University of Iowa, will collaborate with Iowa doctoral student Chiung-man Wu on the 2 p.m. presentation, "Support Networks of a Hispanic and Anglo Rural Elder: A Comparative Case Study." Skemp and Wu are conducting ethnographic community-based research in the rural U.S. and Eastern Caribbean on building community capacity for healthy aging.
  • Elaine Eshbaugh, assistant professor of family studies and gerontology coordinator at the University of Northern Iowa, will be the day's final presenter at 3:15 p.m. Her talk is titled "Living Alone vs. Living Lonely: A Pilot Study of Resilience to Loneliness Among Older Women Living Alone."

"The conference not only provides research results, but also applications the can serve as catalysts for prevention and intervention efforts across the entire adult life span -- including middle adulthood and older age," Margrett said. "The field of gerontology, by its nature, is multidisciplinary, so we also put the program together to reflect that too."

While organizers are hoping to cap the conference at 100 participants, Margrett says there are still some openings remaining, as well as the opportunity to participate in a poster session. Registration is available online and costs $30 for attendees from other institutions and the community, $20 for Iowa State faculty and staff, and $15 for students from any institution. The registration fee includes lunch, refreshments, and program materials.

The conference is sponsored by ISU's Gerontology Program, College of Human Sciences, Nutrition and Wellness Research Center and Extension to Families, as well as the Iowa Consortium on Aging Programs.