Dr. Mike Forster, dean of the College of Health at The University of Southern Mississippi, characterizes the expanding population of aging Americans as “a tsunami we had better get ready to face.”
To that end, health professionals and educators from across South Mississippi gathered to discuss the topic of aging during the 10th Annual Issues on Aging Conference held Jan. 28 at the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center in downtown Hattiesburg. Approximately 100 people attended the day-long public forum sponsored by the College of Health, the Southern Miss Center on Aging, The Southern Miss School of Social Work and the Pinebelt Association for Families.
“We’ve got a situation where Baby Boomers are creeping up on the age of 65 themselves and many of them still have parents to take care of,” said Dr. Susan Hrostowski, assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Southern Miss and co-director of the Center on Aging. “It’s really starting to reach an epidemic stage in our country with people living longer than ever before. And we had better start preparing to meet the needs of our aging population before it’s too late.”
According to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the older population (persons 65 and older) numbered 39.6 million in 2009, representing 12.9 percent of the U.S. population. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000.
Dual sessions were held during the Issues on Aging Conference that featured themes such as:
Hrostowski pointed out that holding public conferences and brainstorming strategies to combat the aging issue represent just a fraction of what is required to adequately manage the growing dilemma.
“Public policy is so very important and often overlooked,” she said. “We need to make sure we are electing people who take this issue seriously and are dedicated to addressing the problem. I know we’re in a tough economic climate right now and nobody wants to talk about spending money. But if we don’t spend the money now on this issue, then we’re going to be in a lot of trouble in the very near future.”
For more information about the Center on Aging and the College of Health at Southern Miss call 601.266.5253 or visit www.usm.edu/coh/