This year Michigan State University will launch a universitywide study, called the The Family Research Initiative, to demonstrate and analyze how the aging of the baby boomer generation will affect Michigan families.
The Family Research Initiative is intended to be a leading interdisciplinary national research program. Researchers from many different colleges will be hired by the university to conduct studies on Michigan’s citizens who are growing older. Their research will cover topics related to the family like medical care, good nutrition, and family support.
The director of the research project Janet Bokemeier argues that because the number of U.S. residents 65 years old and older will be doubling in 50 years, the study of aging, or gerontology, is very critical.
While the number of citizens 65 years old and older was 22 million in the year 2000, it is expected to increase to 48 million in the year 2050. The increase of elderly people will certainly put a strain on the U.S. in terms of health issues, political issues, community, and social issues.
The research project was first proposed in 2005. The university has spent a great deal of time planning the project since then and finding what specific areas need to be focused on. Over the past six years, Michigan State University has already been awarded over $68 million in grants for family related research conducted by 120 faculty members. The Family Research Initiative is planning to highlight and expand on these existing research areas.
Bokemeier explains that over the next two years the university will higher 10 to 15 new faculty members to support the Family Research Initiative with research and focus on matters related to aging. Next year, the Family Research Initiative will decide on a second area to focus on.
Eventually, almost all of Michigan State University’s colleges will get involved in the Family Research Initiative. For example, the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine will eventually lead a study on geriatrics, the study of preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in the elderly. They will also conduct a study on the aging process, called gerontology.
The associate dean for research in the College of Human Medicine says that the college is recruiting a nationally known physician-researcher to direct the research. Three more faculty members and possibly more will also be hired to help the Department of Family Medicine build on their research for aging-related medicine.
Other colleges that the Family Research Initiative will involve, making it an interdisciplinary study, are the College of Nursing, the College of Social Science, and MSU Extension. MSU Extension is a university outreach program that serves to educate Michigan’s citizens about their needs in agriculture, natural resources, community and economic development.
Extension will serve to take the research that the Family Research Initiative finds and develop educational and outreach programs to help Michigan’s citizens. One such example is that they can build simple greenhouses to grow fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter to give to the poor and the elderly.
This is going to be the first proactive universitywide research program of its nature.
Janet Bokemeier, “MSU’s Family Research Initiative to focus on aging,” Michigan State University.