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Preparing Communities for the Aging Population

Feature Story
Posted on Apr, 26 2011

Photo of Colleen Iseminger



Colette Iseminger knows what communities in Minnesota and North Dakota need to do in order to prepare for an increasingly aging population. Iseminger, graduated this December from North Dakota State University with a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science: Gerontology option. Her thesis topic was on the aging population, challenges communities may face, and what communities can do to prepare for an aging population. Statistics from the Census Bureau indicate that in 2030, when all of the baby boomers will be 65 and older, nearly one in five U.S. residents is expected to be 65 and older. This age group is projected to increase to 88.5 million in 2050, more than doubling the number in 2008 (38.7 million). An increased aging population will require additional services for those individuals and because many of those individuals will be retired, recreational activities will become increasingly important.

Iseminger is currently the Executive Director for the Grand Forks Senior Center that oversees Title III programs for four counties in North Dakota. At the time she began her research Grand Forks was in the process of deciding whether or not to build a second senior center adjacent to a fitness center. This gave Iseminger the perfect opportunity to give back to her community by assisting with the feasibility assessment of the project through the research she conducted. The findings of her study indicate that aging individuals in Grand Forks would use a senior center if it were attached to a fitness center. Staying active through fitness as well as recreational activities appear to be important priorities for the aging population. While her study was meant to specifically address the Grand Forks area, many of her findings may be useful information for other major cities in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Serving the recreational needs of the baby boomer population will become an important part of engaging the boomer population. Iseminger’s study indicates, “The baby-boomer population is no longer interested in retiring to a seniors only community. Baby-boomers are seeking recreational opportunities that foster interactions with all generations.” Smaller rural communities may begin to see a population drain because of the fact that the aging population will likely choose to move to larger cities for conveniences like public transportation, proximity to medical facilities, volunteer opportunities, and recreational options. As a result larger communities will face the challenges of becoming prepared for the aging population. According to Iseminger’s research, recreational opportunities will become increasingly important for these individuals. The arts, cultural activities, and lifelong learning programs are gaining popularity among boomers, as are youth mentoring programs. Communities properly prepared for this influx of baby boomers may also reap the benefits of an abundance of individuals who desire to make a difference in their community by sharing their time and talents with deserving organizations.

Reflecting on her online Gerontology master’s program, Iseminger noted that because of the increasingly aging population, gerontology is a field that will likely provide solid career options. “The gerontology program offers practical knowledge that individuals currently working in the field may implement right away.” “Public policy and legislative issues are relevant to my position at the Grand Forks Senior Center so I was able to put that information to use immediately” said Iseminger. Other career fields may benefit from this program as well. In an effort to raise awareness of the wide-range of career opportunities in aging and aging research, the Gerontological Society of America, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, and Universities nationwide recognize April 10 – 16 as Careers in Aging Week.

If you are interested in a career in aging, NDSU Distance and Continuing Education offers a 36 credit online M.S. in Human Development and Family Science: Gerontology option as well as a 21 credit online Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. Students in the master’s program may choose from two tracks: direct service or education and research. To learn more about the gerontology programs offered through NDSU Distance and Continuing Education call 701-231-7015.