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03-29-05

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Iowa State to host Iowa rural aging conference April 6

AMES, Iowa - Iowa is an "old" state. It is ranked fourth highest in the percentage of residents aged 65 or older and second highest in those aged 85 or older.

"The question of how living in rural places affects the quality of life among older adults is of great importance to Iowans," said John Krout, keynote speaker for Iowa State University's conference, "The Future of Rural Aging: What It Means for Iowa." The conference will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, April 6, in the Scheman Building, Iowa State Center. The conference costs $25 and space is limited.

Krout is director of the Gerontology Institute in the Center for Health Sciences, Ithaca College, New York. He also is the 2004-05 Dean Helen LeBaron Hilton Endowed Chair for Iowa State's College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Krout is an internationally recognized scholar on aging in rural America, aging policies and programs, sociology of aging and medical sociology.

Krout said research shows that rural states, including Iowa, have rural elderly with lower incomes and fewer income opportunities; poorer health; fewer housing, transportation and long-term care options; and fewer social and health services.

"My presentation will discuss those issues and examine rural-urban differences for older adults in Iowa," Krout said. "It also will identify and discuss demographic and policy trends that will be of particular importance to older rural Iowans and their communities in the future."

The conference is the culmination of a year of collaboration and research on Iowa rural aging issues by Krout, who has visited campus three times to lecture, work with students and consult with faculty and staff.

Another presenter, Lois Wright Morton, associate professor of sociology at Iowa State, will talk about critical rural health issues. She co-edited the book, "Critical Issues in Rural Health," and directs a United States Department of Agriculture study on impacts of the food environment on the diet and health of rural elderly in Iowa.

"There is an aging of rural health infrastructure -- literally in terms of physical buildings and human capital," Morton said. "It is unraveling as chronic diseases have become more prevalent than acute illness, medical technologies have proliferated and health care delivery and health insurance institutions have restructured."

Morton said more expertise and money is needed, transportation issues must be a priority and a network of rural and urban health care systems needs to be created.

Another presenter, Joel Olah, executive director of Aging Resources of Central Iowa and a member of the board of directors of the Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said the state needs a safety net for its aging population.

"A healthy, independent and contributory life for retired, rural Iowans rests on the shoulders of a new generation of local providers who are part of a network of comprehensive home and community-based services," Olah said.

Other speakers at the conference and their topics are:

  • Peter Martin, professor of human development and family studies and director of Iowa State's gerontology program, overview of the conference
  • Larry Gamm, professor of health policy and management at Texas A&M University, College Station, "Rural Healthy People 2010: Problems and Solutions"
  • Robert Wallace, professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, "Health and Retirement in Rural Environments"
  • Lorraine Dorfman, professor of social work and aging studies at the University of Iowa, "Older Workers and Retirement Preparation"
  • Craig Gundersen, associate professor of human development and family studies, Iowa State, "Economic Challenges Facing Rural Elderly"
  • Mark Haverland, director of the Iowa Department of Elder Affairs, "Policies for Aging Populations in Rural Areas"

For more information on the conference, visit http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/ruralaging/home.html.

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Quick look

Iowa is an "old" state. It is ranked fourth highest in the percentage of residents aged 65 or older and second highest in those aged 85 or older. Also, Iowa's rural health infrastructure is aging and facing challenges as Baby Boomers begin to retire. An April 6 Rural Aging Conference will examine those questions and issues that will affect the quality of life for older Iowans.

Quote

"The rural health infrastructure is unraveling as chronic diseases have become more prevalent than acute illness, medical technologies have proliferated and health care delivery and health insurance institutions have restructured."

Lois Wright Morton