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Growing Older Together

Building an Effective Learning Community on Rapid Global Aging

Nearly 620,000,000 people are 65 or older. With more people living longer than ever before, that total will double with the aging baby boomer generation. By 2030, elderly adults are expected to comprise approximately 21% of the U.S. and 12% of the world population. Growing at an unprecedented rate, the world’s aging population represents one of the next great challenges students must be prepared to address, as the economic, social, psychological, political, and healthcare transformations of “rapid global aging” will be far-reaching in coming years.

Because aging is universal and personally relevant, it offers ways to recognize and integrate experiences across gender, racial, economic, religious, national, and disciplinary divides. “Father Time” doesn’t discriminate; we all age.

*Note: Content adapted from original proposal

We seek to leverage common faculty interests in aging to: (1) build infrastructure for faculty to expand their collaborative teaching abilities and (2) prepare new generations of students to grapple with issues on rapid global aging. Through a multidisciplinary summer workshop, participating faculty will build a learning community that will:1) frame and investigate key questions about rapid global aging and its implications, and, 2) share and develop teaching materials (e.g., syllabi, readings, activities, datasets) that foster multidisciplinary inquiry and learning about aging.

Our project has already built momentum through a summer 2017 workshop funded by St. Olaf’s Institute for Freedom and Community (IFC). We want to continue meaningful dialogue and to follow through with substantial action. The summer workshop proposed here will include faculty from multiple disciplines and institutions who share an interest in rapid global aging, and want to pursue active collaborations to enhance their teaching on this topic.


Our interactive learning environment will:

  • Increase faculty collaboration across disciplines and institutions
  • Empower faculty with diverse interests through mutual experience and exploration of new teaching tools on aging (e.g., common datasets, assignments, readings, activities, civic engagement opportunities, etc.).
  • Provide faculty with active, meaningful community-building and innovative approaches to teaching

The multidisciplinary issues presented through our faculty learning community will naturally translate to students’ vast academic interests and personal life experiences. Students will think more deeply about:

  • Challenges the elderly face
  • Interdisciplinary careers in gerontology
  • Choices they will make across their lifespan, concerning themselves and loved ones
  • Future opportunities and careers that come with increasing numbers of elders


During a first summer workshop, we will connect faculty from disparate disciplines across ACM campuses, providing opportunity to discuss aging-related readings and teaching activities in a constructive, collaborative atmosphere. This workshop will lay the foundation for a sustained virtual learning community moving forward.

Day 1: Discuss key issues in rapid global aging and consider ways to attract students to the field.

Day 2: Work time to discuss ideas, identify existing materials, create an online repository, and finalize new teaching materials and ideas to upload to the repository.

Day 3: Presentations of new course materials and projects

A final 1-day workshop in the second summer will allow another discussion of the resources and projects on aging we have completed.

Dissemination Strategies

To disseminate what we learned and developed at our physical workshop meetings, we will:

  1. Develop a virtual community where any interested party could post, discuss, share meaningful teaching materials related to rapid global aging. It could also advertise community events (e.g., speaker series, discussion-oriented events), whereby interested faculty at local ACM colleges could attend physically or tune in via live-stream.
  2. Our virtual repository could host or advertise teaching materials we develop (e.g., webinars, case studies, class activities, course modules, assignments) on rapid global aging so that faculty or leaders at any other ACM college can adopt or revise them.
  3. Share our approach and outcomes at faculty development lunches on ACM campuses (e.g., CILA at St. Olaf College).
  4. Seek out opportunities to publish materials we created in our learning community, if there was interest and enough momentum from our workshop (e.g., a new interdisciplinary text for teaching topics in aging).

Outcomes and Significance

Our learning community will have 5 distinct outcomes:

  1. Identify and share already-existing teaching materials (e.g., syllabi, readings, datasets) for faculty seeking to teach on aging in various courses.
  2. Create new teaching materials on rapid global aging (e.g., assignments, activities) and to develop ideas for shared materials moving forward (e.g., modules, case studies, civic engagement opportunities) with plans for implementation in upcoming school years.
  3. Explore existing curricula where aging topics can be incorporated, identify opportunities for ACM faculty to give guest lectures in other courses, and brainstorm ideas for new integrative courses on aging.
  4. Discover and pursue shared interests for future exploration in faculty teaching and research. We have already learned of feasible interdisciplinary projects to pursue (including a grant proposal to the NIH on advancing diversity in aging through undergraduate education, and a team-taught course on aging across disciplines).
  5. Establish a virtual community, website or online repository to serve as a resource for participants and ACM members, so teaching materials can easily be inserted into any pre-existing courses across the curriculum at ACM colleges.
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