Director's Report

October, 2016- March, 2017

The Center for Gerontology at Concordia University Chicago was launched 2014 and encompasses research efforts that include generating, organizing, and disseminating high quality multidisciplinary aging related practice and knowledge. We strive to make a difference in the lives of older adults and their families through faith-based research and education, which will have a far-reaching impact on the community we serve.

Concordia University Chicago began as a college for teachers and today is a comprehensive university comprising the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, College of Education, College of Graduate Studies and College of Innovation and Professional Programs. CUC offers graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as doctoral degrees. The University is affiliated with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and is a member of the Concordia University System, a nationwide network of colleges and universities.

The season of spring is an apt time to reconvene our Advisory Board. For months in its absence, we have been planting seeds of ideas in anticipation that some would bear fruit and become robust programs for future generations.  Albeit, it seems like yesterday when we last gathered (via conference call) to discuss what benefits the Center for Gerontology at Concordia University Chicago can offer, what follows are the highlights during the fall and winter seasons: 

  • Promoted and participated in the development of the 7th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality to be hosted by the Center and CUC, June 4-7th, 2017. More than 115 registrations have been received in response to the innovative and cutting edge presentations accepted for the conference. Members of the Advisory Board (Rich Bimler) and Professor Lydia Manning deserve credit and recognition for their respective roles in achieving a remarkable success story at this stage. In addition, the Center also secured the pro-bono services of a University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration Master’s intern, Dary Mien, to assist with community outreach. 
  • Center for Gerontology awarded a $30,000 contract by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI). Per the terms of the agreement, the university’s Center for Gerontology will develop and implement a suite of customized training resources for LSSI aides who deliver home care to older adults.   
  • The Center commitment to serve the Concordia faculty and staff with gerontological expertise via staffing of an ongoing bi-weekly “caregivers support group” resulted in its being named the recipient of the Reverend Paul R. Schuth Gerontology Memorial Fund. The family of Rev. Schuth invites contributions to support education, outreach, and advocacy efforts related to aging for the Center for Gerontology at Concordia University Chicago. Two thousand dollars in donations have been received thus far.  
  • IGRAIN, the Illinois Gerontology Research Advancement and Instructional Network continues to add higher educational institutions to its consortium begun by the Center. The Illinois State University (Normal, IL) is now part of a 10-member higher education group collaborating to advance gerontological employment opportunities for students. We are awaiting word from the Retirement Research Foundation re: acceptance of grant submitted in February to study the feasibility of creating a statewide, representative registry of older adults in Illinois. A registry of this type would be the first of its kind and provide students, advocates, policy makers, media, and business with a statewide resource to understand what the needs of elders in Illinois.  Lastly, we were invited to present on IGRAIN at the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) annual meeting in Miami (March 10, 2017).
  • Website for the Center for Gerontology completed.  Implemented for “live” access earlier this year, the website will allow interactive educational modules, video feeds of gerontology presentations, and permit dissemination of current information and data re: aging services and public policies in Illinois. Registration for the upcoming 7th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality in June (4-7th, 2017) was also facilitated via the website.
  • Secured and received the third and final year of funding from the Russell and Josephine Kott Memorial Fund (thru calendar year 2017).
  • Center continues to partner with community organizations including co-hosting with AgeOptions, the “On the Table” discussion on aging needs promoted by the Chicago Community Trust and with Aging 2.0 to serve as a judge in its initial “shark tank” competition for entrepreneurs creating products/services for the ageing marketplace. On April 18th, the Center and the Gerontology Program will host Resilient Aging-Resilient produced by the Arbor West NeighborsMore than100 attendees, including 30 CUC emeriti alumni will be attend a morning lecture by Dr. Roger Landry, a physician known for his cutting edge (no pun intended) views on extending longevity without sacrificing quality of life. 
  • Two intergenerational programs with the St. Andrews Society (Scottish Homes and Caledonia Home) and St. Peter Church and School are in development. We are creating the curriculum, training modules, and activities for both institutions with program implementation expected in fall of 2017.

Challenges

Hosting a successful international conference in a two months requires broad support to reach the large market of potential attendees. Prospective awareness of every opportunity to promote the conference on CUC’s campus is critical.  

Sustaining funding for the Center’s future is the priority for this calendar year. In addition to developing proposals for private funding consideration, other ideas (such as building a joint Gerontology-Entrepreneurial program with the School of Business) to replace the absence of public funding will need to be devised.

We’ve been busy and are stretching ourselves to become “go-to” resource for students, older adults, their families and caregivers, and their communities. To become the gerontological resource for Concordia University means to be embedded in its academic offerings across the four colleges, present in chapel worship, familiar to the athletic programs and student life general. It requires disrupting the tendency within institutions of higher education to build academic siloes. To that end, we can cite an active partnership with the College of Business to sponsor “entrepreneur boot camps” for persons over 50 with funding support from AARP; with the Graduate School and its Gerontology Program as our academic fountainhead led by Lydia Manning’s scholarship and community participatory advocacy.  In our college, the College of Innovation and Professional Programs, our presence is found not only in frequent undergraduate course presentations, but also with the Centers for Literacy (and Numeracy) and Early Childhood Education. With the latter we are developing two intergenerational programs for pre-school aged children and older adults in residential facilities and with the former, a Chicago Public high-school literacy project on gerontology and on May 22-23rd the two Centers will co- sponsor the “Silver Gold Rush” panel and lunch with Wally Amos.  

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