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WKU Opens New Center on Aging that Combines Many Areas of Expertise

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Rhonda J. Miller
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Western Kentucky University is launching a new center focusing on the health and wellness of the growing demographic of older adults in the state and the nation. The new Bowling Green facility opens Sept. 11.

The Center for Applied Science in Health and Aging combines several research specialties, including exercise, communication and psychology.  The center will expand current projects that take a holistic approach to the issues facing older Kentuckians.

Matthew Shake is an associate professor of psychological sciences at WKU and one of three founding members of the aging center.  

“Kentucky in general ranks in the bottom 10 in most health-related statistics. It’s generally not a very healthy state, and that’s certainly true for the older adults in Kentucky,” said Shake. “So there’s certainly a great need in Kentucky for increased emphasis on health promotion programs and programs geared towards improving the lives of older adults in Kentucky.”

Shake said in addition to research in many disciplines, the new center will serve as a link to area agencies, nonprofits and businesses with the goal of becoming a leader in  aging issues.

The other founding members of the center are Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders Jean Neils-Strunjas, and Associate Professor of Exercise Science Jason Crandall, who is director of the center. 

Strunjas says the three have already been collaborating, so they were geared up to help launch the first project at the new center.

“For example, we have an upcoming program called ‘Let’s Talk about Memory’ and I was able to work with both Dr. Crandall and Dr. Shake on finding participants in the program which will be a program to study ways to prevent or reduce the chances of getting dementia,” said Strunjas.

The center, using the acronym CASHA, will engage in rigorous applied research through innovative education, research, partnerships and service. 

“This center will provide our students, faculty, staff and our community partners with the ability to collaborate in research that promotes health, vitality and human potential in the aging community,” said Crandall. 

CASHA will  collaborate with community organizations and university partners to identify and address needs in the aging community. CASHA has already received several state and federal grants.  

The Sept. 11 ribbon cutting for the new center on aging is open to the public. It’s at 3 p.m. at the WKU Center for Research and Development at the corner of Nashville Road and Campbell Lane.

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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