ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Marymount University will launch its first interdisciplinary research center this year, and it will be focused on optimal aging. Associate Vice President for Research Dr. Rita Wong will serve as the Center for Optimal Aging’s interim director.
Wong says the center’s focus was a natural fit, as Marymount University already has federal funding to direct the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance, which is dedicated to decreasing falls and falls-related injuries in older adults. Wong is also the director of the NVFPA.
“That program really has brought us, collaborators, from across Northern Virginia and now into Maryland and D.C.,” Wong said, “so it was kind of a natural fit for the first of really five centers we hope to start at the university.”
“Optimal aging” is aging well with the highest levels of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social function. Wong says researchers tend to focus on the beginning of life and the end of life (like hospice care, for example) but there’s a big gap in research between those stages.
“There is a lot of people in between that who are working with community groups, working with organizations, trying to maintain their health, trying to maintain all those domains, and there aren’t really a lot of services connecting them all together,” she said.
Physical therapists, nurses, counselors, and even interior designers from Marymount and around the Northern Virginia region will collaborate to fill that gap.
The university reports adults the aging population is growing. “Adults over the age of 65 increased from 12.4 percent of the population in 2000 to 17 percent in 2020, and is estimated to jump to 20 percent by 2030,” Marymount said in a press release.