WMU News

Multicultural sensitivity and aging is presentation topic

Nov. 2, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- An authority on multicultural issues in the aging population will speak at Western Michigan University Thursday, Nov. 11.

Dr. Aaron Smith, of the University of South Florida in Tampa, will deliver a lecture titled "Tell Them Who We Are: Multiculturally Sensitive Practice for the New Millennium." Smith's presentation is set for 4 to 6 p.m. in the Media Room on the concourse level of the University Health Services Building, 1000 Oakland Drive.

Smith is an associate professor of social work and chair of the graduate program in the University of South Florida School of Social Work. He also holds adjunct appointments in the College of Public Health, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of African Studies, the Department of Criminology, the Department of Sociology and the Department of Nursing.

He is coming to WMU through Project AGE, a personnel preparation project that gives allied health students the training they need to serve elderly people more effectively.

Smith is interested in chronic illnesses and the psycho-social manageability within the family context as well as the impact of poverty and ethnicity on health and illness behaviors.

Providing services to older people, particularly those with diverse ethnic backgrounds, is becoming increasingly important since the elderly population is rapidly growing in the United States. By the year 2000, people over age 65 will make up 13 percent of the population, or 35 million adults, more than double the number of children under age 5, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Those numbers will continue to grow.

The elderly population currently consists of a small percentage of minority ethnic groups, including 8.2 percent African American and 4.9 percent Hispanic. But growth will be most rapid in these populations.

To help meet the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse elderly population, WMU's Project AGE is focusing its energies on education. The program creates and increases opportunities for interdisciplinary clinical internships for allied health workers who wish to serve the older population.

In addition, Project AGE infuses college-level allied health courses with gerontology, focusing on age, culture, interdisciplinary collaboration, technology and disability prevention. Its activities are supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Resources, Health Resources Service Administration.

For more information about Smith's visit or Project AGE, contact Sandra Glista, clinical supervisor in speech pathology and audiology, at (616) 387-8064.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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