The University of Alabama

UA to Host Leading Researchers at Mental Health, Aging Conference

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Aging successfully begins much earlier than when most people begin preparing for retirement.

The decisions one makes during their 20s and 30s can impact quality of life in their 70s, even if significant lifestyle changes are made when a person enters their 50s.

“That’s a hard message to get across,” said Dr. Patricia Parmelee, director of the Center for Mental Health and Aging at The University of Alabama. “Health behavior shapes not just how long, but how well you live, much more than the typical risk factors.”

And while people should strive to age successfully for their own health benefits, the goal is two-fold, as nearly one in four Americans cares for an older adult, Parmelee said.

Taking care of one’s body, educating a younger generation about aging successfully, and planning and caring for elderly family members can be challenging, but The University of Alabama’s Center for Mental Health and Aging’s research and outreach projects help Tuscaloosa-area residents and healthcare professionals bridge the gap.

The UA Center for Mental Health and Aging and the College of Continuing Studies will host “Successful Aging Across the Lifespan,” a day-long conference of workshops for professionals, community providers and caregivers at the Bryant Conference Center May 16.

Special emphasis will be given to aging successfully from birth, Alzheimer’s/dementia care and healthy lifestyles.

Registration for the event (http://cmha.ua.edu/news/2014-aging-successfully-conference/) is $199 and covers the cost of instruction, breakfast and lunch, and the welcome reception Thursday, May 15 at Capstone Village, where former UA football player, coach and athletics director Hootie Ingram will serve as keynote speaker. The student rate for the conference is $99.

While much of the conference is tailored for healthcare providers, workshops on dementia, staying fit at home, and late-life financial planning have broader appeal to area residents interested in information for themselves or family members, Parmelee said.

“Something I’ve seen or learned in going on 40 years of work: people don’t look ahead,” Parmelee said. “Educating yourself about the costs is extremely important. The average cost of nursing home care for private pay is $70,000. One of the problems I see families having is that children are afraid to broach the topic, and parents don’t want to talk about it.”

Parmelee will be one of three keynote speakers for the event. Dr. Daniel Marson, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, division of neuropsychology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Dr. Toni Miles, director of the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Georgia, are also keynote speakers.

The Center for Mental Health and Aging, located in Osband Hall, includes six core faculty members and more than 45 faculty associates across campus who are involved with the center’s research and outreach, like the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute courses.

The center also works closely with community agencies in Tuscaloosa and throughout the state to provide information about local resources and services.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.