JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing Forum Equips Adults with Accurate Information for Healthy Aging

Wisconsin is currently home to more than 1 million adults aged 60 and over; and that number is expected to increase drastically. According to projections by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the proportion of adults over the age of 65 will increase from less than 18 percent in most Wisconsin counties in 2005 to more than a quarter of the population in 2035. Yet many individuals, businesses and health care providers still maintain outdated beliefs about older adults, which inhibit their ability to effectively interact with mature adults.

“Healthy Aging in the 21st-Century,” an Alverno Forum hosted by the Alverno College JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing, is designed to bust through myths and misconceptions of aging and replace them with accurate information about living well into the later years. The Forum is open to the public and will be held Thursday, November 14, from 6-7:30 p.m. in Wehr Auditorium at Christopher Hall.

“Age today isn’t what it used to be,” says Valli Sternig, assistant professor of Nursing. “There’s a huge national push right now to foster positive perceptions and accurate information about the older adult population – about their lifestyles and their needs. We want this Forum to be part of the conversation.”

Contrary to popular belief, most older adults are not frail or infirm.  In fact, this segment of the population remains active and vibrant. They continue to crave and enjoy companionship and want to contribute to their communities as long as possible. All adults will go through the aging process, yet each will have a different experience and different needs.

The Alverno Forum will “look at the myths of aging and the realities and include information on how to age well,” Sternig says. Four panelists – Doris Chortek, Vivien De Back, Harry Fleddermann and Vi Hawkins – will be on hand to share their experiences and insights.

De Back and Fleddermann may be familiar to Alverno alumnae and friends of the College. De Back was the director of Alverno’s Nursing program for many years; Fleddermann, professor emeritus, taught Religious Studies at Alverno College. Both are widely respected in their professional fields and communities and have authored numerous books and articles. De Back continues to contribute insights to the world of nursing, while Fleddermann currently teaches part-time in a Lay Formation Program in El Paso, Texas.

Chortek and Hawkins both have volunteered extensively in the community over the past 50 years and remain deeply committed to making life better for all. Chortek has helped more than 50 nonprofit organizations, notably the Women’s Job Corp, United Way, Jewish Family Services and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Hawkins currently serves as the chairperson of the Milwaukee County Department on Aging Commissioners Board and is the Milwaukee Country representative to the state Aging/Disabilities Committee; she’s also a member of the Jazzy Jewels dance team.

The panelists will share their stories, as well as resources and tools that have helped them – and may help other adults – remain vibrant, active members of the community.

“We’re going to have tables of materials and resources available at the Forum,” Sternig shares. “AARP will have materials there; so will the Milwaukee County Department of Aging. The Forum will be an opportunity for adults of all ages to hear the vibrancy of the older adults on our panel, as well as an opportunity to connect with some of the resources the panelists will mention while sharing their stories. Our panelists have so much to offer, not only to their own generation, but to the generations following them, if we’ll listen.”