UVM Center for Aging receives $5 million

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(Host) Vermont has the second oldest population in the country, and that has implications for everything from health care to employment.

So the University of Vermont has created a new “Center on Aging” that will use research and education to help people stay healthy as they grow older.

And as VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, one of the state’s top philanthropists gave $5 million to get the work started.

(Sneyd) Demographers and economists have sounded warnings for quite a while now about emerging trends.

In 20 years, the number of Vermonters 65 and older will double – one in three of us.

There will be fewer in the work force to support the rest of us as we age. And the number of older people with disabilities will grow 45 percent in ten years.

(McClure) “The statistics are just really scary. I don’t think we’re ready for it. I really don’t think we’re ready for it.”

(Sneyd) Lois McClure says it’s time to get ready.

So she gave UVM $5 million to launch its Center on Aging. McClure and her late husband have given millions of dollars to a variety of institutions over the years. But this is the single largest she’s ever given on her own.

As McClure sees it, there are a lot of things we haven’t figured out about supporting an older population. How will people remain financially secure into their 70s, 80s and 90s? What accommodations will people need to keep working as they get older? And how do we stay healthy?

(McClure) "Because you’re dealing with a small area and a small state, you can try these things in a moderate way and see how they’re going to go. And if they work, you share the news with other people. It’s sort of like a takeoff point.”

(Sneyd) The center will focus on education, research and policy. It’ll start by offering classes and workshops.

Dr. William Pendlebury is the director.

(Pendlebury) “First and foremost, we’re going to be dealing with work force issues. We’re going to be dealing with housing and transportation issues, issues related to entitlement programs and health care.”

(Sneyd) UVM administrators say they don’t envision a big building for the new center. They say they expect to hold classes and conduct research in towns large and small across the state.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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