from the Michigan State University WorkLife Office:
MSU Community Members Honored with Inaugural AgeAlive Awards
An estimated 20% of America’s population will be 65 or older by 2030. It’s comforting to know that our MSU campus and community partners are leading the way to address this statistic through research and engagement, which in turn helps us strive for inclusivity and dignity for all people, regardless of age.
AgeAlive celebrates the resilience and strength of the human spirit to rise above adversity, hang on to goodness, affect positive change, care for each other, and create joy. The inaugural AgeAlive Awards honor four deserving award recipients whose efforts are indeed helping to ensure a world in which there is respect, well-being, and quality of life for all people of all ages and abilities.
AgeAlive Leading the Way
AgeAlive is a labor of love and is important to the future of our country. It has already made tremendous progress in the field of aging, research, and community outreach.
“Collectively, this work demonstrates and elevates the importance of generation aging, the need for generational experiences and learning, and the need for well-being at all ages. It also demonstrates MSU's commitment to playing a key role in advancing this important scholarship,” stated Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. MSU Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
“AgeAlive has accomplished so much and achieved many important milestones, due in large part to the contributions of those on campus who share the vision and mission and live it every day through their passion, commitment to research, and engagement with the community,” said Susi Elkins, director of broadcasting and general manager of WKAR Public Media at MSU.
AgeAlive 2020 Intergenerational Award
MSU Alumni Office, accepted by Amy Carnahan, director of Grandparents University
The Intergenerational Award is given to honor an MSU faculty member, administrator, alumni, student, retiree, team, or program that demonstrates leadership in education, teaching, or activities involving cross-generational and positive aging throughout the lifespan.
Since 2005, MSU has welcomed young Spartans ages 8 to 12 and their grandparents to campus for a unique, intergenerational learning experience called Grandparents University (GPU). Each year, 1,300 guests from across the U.S. and around the world visit campus. Approximately 200 classes are offered by more than 25 colleges and units at MSU.
Nicklas McLaren, Executive Director of the MSU Alumni Office spoke highly of the program and its collaborators, “Our participants can see that MSU is doing extraordinary things while the magic of campus brings the two generations together for a lifelong learning experience. I want to say thank you to those within the Alumni Office who have put so much thought and effort into making this program a huge success."
GPU is the envy of other institutions because of the commitment of Amy Carnahan, director of Grandparent University and Alumni University. Her dedication to create meaningful engagement opportunities for staff, key volunteers, and those that participate in GPU have made the program a success. This is a testament of her hard work and belief in the value of intergenerational learning.
“I am so honored to accept this on behalf of the MSU Alumni Office. This is the largest intergenerational program in the country and holds a special place in our hearts,” said Carnahan. “Relationships between children and their grandparents or loved ones are incredibly special. MSU is proud to offer a program to strengthen that tie to each other and to Michigan State University.”
AgeAlive 2020 Outstanding Research Awards
These awards recognize MSU researchers who engage in outstanding aging-related research that address issues of aging, and provide significant value through innovation, improvement, or new initiatives.
Honglei Chen, MD, Ph.D. Epidemiologist and Biostatistics
Dr. Honglei Chen, Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, came to the US in 1996 as an international student from China and earned his Ph.D. in Nutritional Epidemiology from Tufts University in 2001. After earning his Ph.D., Dr. Chen worked at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), where he developed the Aging and Neuroepidemiology group within the NIEHS intramural research program.
In 2016, Dr. Chen joined MSU as a part of the global impact initiative. Within this initiative, he studies the development of Parkinson’s disease and dementia with the ultimate goal of disease prevention and healthy aging. More recently, Dr. Chen has focused his research on understanding poor sense of smell as a prodromal symptom for neurodegeneration, and as a marker for accelerated aging. To date, Dr. Chen has published approximately 200 papers in mainstream health journals, such as the Annals of Internal Medicine, Annals of Neurology, Neurology, and Environmental Health Perspectives.
During his first two years at MSU, Dr. Chen received a Department of Defense Impact Award as well as a National Institutes of Health R01 grant. His research at MSU has also been generously supported by the Parkinson’s Foundation, the Gibby & Friends vs. Parky project, and MSU start-ups.
“Dr. Chen is a world leader in research on the environmental determinants of Parkinson Disease. He is a top-notch scientist, who stands out for his competence, vision, and creativity,” said Dr. Alberto Ascherio, a colleague at Harvard University. “He is a pioneer who has contributed, and I expect will continue to contribute substantially to important discoveries in the epidemiology of neurodegenerative diseases, with important public health implications. He is also an effective leader and generous team player, motivated by the desire to reduce the individual and societal burden of neurodegenerative disease rather than by personal gains. In summary, I believe he is a stellar scholar who deserves to be recognized at the highest level for his academic achievements.”
Bill Chopik, Ph.D., Department of Psychology
Dr. Bill Chopik, has completed research that explores what happens to personality, well-being, and social relationships during aging. These efforts draw attention to stereotypes that may unfortunately shape how people perceive aging and how older people are viewed in society. Chopik is committed to giving social science research back to the community by engaging with the popular press to talk about the rigorous scientific research being conducted at MSU.
“Bill is an outstanding member of our department. He is extremely deserving as he is also the 2020 recipient of the Margaret M. and Paul B. Baltes Foundation Award for behavioral and social gerontology given by the Gerontological Society of America,” said Dr. Brent Donnellan, chair of the Department of Psychology. “Bill is doing phenomenal work studying lifespan social personality development and doing the important task of documenting age-related stereotypes.On a personal note, I can say that Bill is one of the funniest members of our department. He is pro-pun and super fun. He is also someone who is exceptionally generous with his time and attention. He is a wonderful mentor to his students and a widely respected colleague.”
AgeAlive 2020 Legacy Award - Barbara Sawyer-Koch
The Legacy Award is given in honor of an older adult who has a long and outstanding history of service to others that improves their quality of life and well-being.
Barbara Sawyer-Koch was praised by Susi Elkins, director of broadcasting and general manager of WKAR Public Media at MSU upon receiving the award, “You have certainly improved the quality of my life, and the lives of our WKAR members and students starting their careers. Your legacy to me is one of action around the things you believe in. It sounds simple, and you make it seem so. But, in fact, it is really quite rare. It’s impossible to convey the depth of gratitude I have for you and how you’ve taught me to go after what’s important with courage and determination. You’ve certainly done that in your life and we are all better for it. Congratulations, my friend, and thank you.”
Sawyer-Koch is one of the founding members of AgeAlive along with Clare Luz, who said, “It would be impossible to give high enough praise for all that Barbara has meant to AgeAlive or to me personally over the past 6-7 years. Barb and I sat at her kitchen table and hatched up a kernel of an idea that would eventually become AgeAlive.” From the very beginning, there was a common mission to raise up all things aging at MSU. This focus was around the need to support caregivers, intergenerational experiences, and opportunities for engaging in meaningful work - including enriching activities that improve quality of life and well-being for all people of all ages and ability.
For Sawyer-Koch, this is a great honor and very humbling experience. She states that, “AgeAlive has been a passion for me because of my experiences as a caregiver for my husband with dementia. We have been so fortunate with the people who have joined the leadership circle from the university and from the community. It’s such a dynamic group and I just can’t thank them all enough for the consistent, exciting, innovative, really considerate actions that have been designed around serving all the missions. I want to thank all who have given breath and life to our growing vision. I hope you assure it continues to grow and thrive. You are an enormous asset to this community. Thank you so much.”
Continue to Learn about Aging
If you would like to join the mission of AgeAlive or just keep up with events and announcements, visit the website https://www.agealive.org/, request to be included on the email list, or ask to be involved in future projects.
AgeAlive would like to thank award sponsors and hosts: Susi Elkins, WKAR; David Collins, WKAR; The AgeAlive Leadership Council; The AgeAlive Award Ceremony Planning Committee; MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine; Barbara Roberts, PhD, MSU WorkLife Office; Greg Koerner, MSU IT, Digital Classroom Services Manager; Amy Allingham, IT Services Academic Technology; and Larry Cushion Trophies & Engraving.
“I’d like to congratulate Age-Alive on this achievement, and say just how proud we are to be part of this amazing group of people," said Barbara Roberts, WorkLife Office Executive Director. "The WorkLife Office has been a strong supporter of age-friendly initiatives, starting with striving toward our current Age-Friendly University designation, and the similar Age-Friendly designations of East Lansing and Michigan. Our relationship with Age Alive in its seminal phase continues today - directly through financial support of our staff member on the Age Alive team, Lori Strom; our communications team’s promotion of Age-Alive activities, and ongoing collaboration an a variety of projects. We are proud to be part of the Age-Alive community and look forward to deepening our involvement in the coming year.”
PBS News Hour Reports
Clare Luz, AgeAlive Director is featured in a two-part report from PBS News Hour regarding the PCA workforce shortage.