By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Bowling Green State University has a new $1 million baby – an initiative to help older area residents age more gracefully.
Officials from Medical Mutual of Ohio, which made the $1 million donation, and BGSU officially delivered the new project at a press conference Monday morning at the College of Health and Human Services.
That’s where the Optimal Aging Institute will have its offices. Its services, though, will be offered throughout the area, wherever older folks want and need help make their lives easier, healthier and fuller.
In announcing the project, Health and Human Services Dean Mary Huff said: “Optimal aging is defined as living at one’s highest potential, whether or not we are living independently and in excellent health, or coping with a chronic illness or disability. Optimal aging is a focus on what is possible, not on the impossible.”
The initiative, Huff said, will have three major goals:
• It will create and expand programs and activities for middle-age and older adults.
• It will assist those doing research in aging and assist those needing supportive services for themselves or others.
• It will educate and train students, service providers, health care workers, caregivers, older adults and business owners. That will include providing students with hands-on learning experiences.
Huff said the first step will be to hire a director. A conference will be held in August to help launch the institute.
The programs will address all the dimensions of wellness, Huff said. Those are physical, emotional and cognitive as well social, occupational, cultural and spiritual.
BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said more older adults are returning to college towns to live. Campuses provide a wealth of activities, and the stimulation of a young population. Students, she said, help keep her young.
Aging, she said, is “beautiful.”
“You can do what you want and say what you want to say. You impact the lives of others. You get to have a major impact on the future of this country,” she said.
Rick Chiricosta, the chairman, president and CEO of Medical Mutual of Ohio, said the name and concept of the Optimal Aging Institute “really resonated with me.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Let’s make this a great experience for people who are getting older.”
The institute could become a model for the state and nation, he said.
Mazey said she hopes to tap into other funding sources to help further develop the institute. “We really want to expand on this.”
The institute is a central part of the university’s mission, Mazey said. It brings together the resources and strengths of the university with those of the community. “It helps bring that population in the community closer to the university. That’s what universities should be about.”