Gerontology Goes Global

Anne Glass in India
After accepting a position at UNCW in August 2015, Anne Glass, professor and program coordinator for the gerontology department, has spent the past year reimagining the scope of gerontology at UNCW. Glass has many plans to refocus the department, and one vital part of those plans is to get the program more involved in the global conversation on aging.

Glass has been all over the world to present her research, because aging is not just an at-home issue. Last September she traveled to the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom to speak at an Economic and Social Research Council about the benefits of the co-housing model for older people. For her paper titled "China: Facing a Long-term Care Crisis on an Unprecedented Scale," published in Global Public Health in 2013, Glass traveled to China and found herself shocked by the sheer challenges facing the country when it comes to aging.

"What I was struck with overall is that there's a definite lack of education and training about working with older people or understanding aging," Glass said.

Glass, along with Allison Miley, a student working toward her graduate certificate in gerontology, accompanied members from the school of social work on their trip to Bangalore, India in January 2016, touring the Bangalore Nightingale Center for Aging and Alzheimer's. Despite centers like these, Glass noted, India is also unprepared for the rapidly aging population, which is happening worldwide faster and earlier than ever before.

Just last month, Kiran Jeevan, director of the social work department at St. Joseph's College in Bangalore, visited UNCW to collaborate on how to improve gerontology education in India. With the help of Glass and the UNCW gerontology department, the social work department at St. Joseph's College is now connected with the Nightingale Center for Aging and Alzheimer's - a small but vital step in improving care for the aging population in India.

"The gerontology program's focus is on improving the wellbeing of older adults in our community - and that can be in Wilmington, or that can be in Bangalore, India," said Glass.

Glass also recently returned from Cuba where she observed their health care programs to see how they provide for their older adults. These trips fuel Glass' intentions to highlight the international opportunities for students studying gerontology. She offers a course titled GRN 501, "Aging and Society," where each student focuses on the aging population in different countries and the programs those countries have in place.

Glass has also voiced her desire to take gerontology students to the Netherlands because of the country's cutting-edge housing options for older people. From elder co-housing integrated into the larger community to apartments for life where accommodations are brought into the home instead of residents having to move, the options in the Netherlands have been proven to combat the common side-effects of depression and loneliness that often arise from traditional housing for older adults. Glass also hopes to be able to market UNCW's program to students outside of the United States as the program continues to build relationships within the local community and global community.

"I feel so strongly about this," said Glass, in regard to improving care for older people across the globe. "I want to do what I can, even if it's just a drop in the bucket."

--Caitlin Taylor