Voices of Aging: Aging Studies Interdisciplinary Group Launches Podcast Aimed at Acquisition of Applied Knowledge

As people live longer and the aging population increases in the U.S. and worldwide, the demand for professionals with expertise in geriatric care will continue to grow exponentially. The Gerontological Society of America established Careers in Aging Week to raise awareness of this need and expose students to careers serving this population. 

“There’s a national initiative where colleges and universities across the U.S. highlight different disciplines and fields in aging, with the idea of promoting careers in aging,” said Rajean Moone, PhD, associate director for education within the Center for Health Aging and Innovation and faculty advisor for The University of Minnesota Aging Studies Interdisciplinary Group (ASIG). . “We decided to launch that concept as a podcast series featuring alumni from the University of Minnesota, including guests from the School of Social Work, the School of Public Health, the Medical School, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and more.”

ASIG launched the “Voices of Aging” podcast during Careers in Aging Week, creating a mini series called “Careers in Aging.” To highlight the breadth of career options, they invited speakers from across the spectrum, including a recent graduate, a state government employee, a researcher, an executive of a nonprofit organization, an elected official and a physician. 

“They have conversations about how they got into aging and give advice to new graduates,” Dr. Moone said.

ASIG includes students from across campus studying aging from different angles – from basic science to applied psychological aging. The group recently extended membership from just graduate students to undergraduates as well.

“I’m working mostly on preclinical bench work, and I don’t really have contact with patients, but that’s still something I’m interested in,” said Rui Zhong, a PhD candidate studying the neuropharmacology of Alzheimer’s disease and one of the podcast’s organizers. “I think this is a great way to get in touch with people, make connections and work with them.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the group’s normal educational routine and ability to meet in-person, a podcast was the perfect outlet to learn, network and spread awareness.

“This year, the group decided to start doing some podcasts and social media,” Dr. Moone said. “And so, the ‘Voices of Aging’ podcast was launched at the U of M.”

Podcasts are a big undertaking, and so ASIG formed an interdisciplinary student-led team, spearheaded by Rui Zhong and Madeleine Howard, a second-year medical student and the podcast’s host. Even the podcast’s title music was composed by a U of M student, Brock Splawski.

“We have this great, synergistic group of students who go above and beyond and just want to do amazing things,” Dr. Moone said. “The podcast was completely led by students; they did all of the organizing.”

While the podcast was student-led, Dr. Moone helped identify alumni to interview – attracting some big names – including Rep. Jennifer Schultz from the Minnesota House of Representatives, Adam Suomala, executive director of the Minnesota Leadership Council on Aging, Dr. Ann McLaughlin, Health and Aging Policy Fellow in the Office of U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and more.

“It was really interesting to hear from people involved in politics and our aging population,” Howard said. “Any time a guest has a unique backstory it’s particularly interesting.”

The group hopes to continue the podcast in the next academic year, and is even thinking about increasing its frequency. 

“I’m going to keep doing this until I graduate,” Zhong said. “I think it’s a really interesting project to work on, and I’ve learned a lot by just listening to the podcast and doing some of the background work.”

In the meantime, ASIG hosts a monthly lunch and learn session with a community speaker discussing a wide range of topics. For example, at an ASIG event in December 2020, they invited a lobbyist from a large, well-known aging service organization who was able to explain how events at the Capitol impacted aging groups.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to get that applied knowledge, particularly from the interdisciplinary aspect,” Dr. Moone said. 

In the future, topics might include social isolation and end-of-life issues, ageism, dementia and the impact of policy. 

“I really appreciate it from a personal development standpoint,” Howard said. “There are aspects I’ve been able to use to enhance my education as a medical student, and it’s helpful to have that supplemental information in patient care.”

You can listen to the “Voices of Aging” podcast on the following platforms:

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

iHeart Radio

 

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