THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2014

Partnership with Westminster Oaks poised to produce dynamic research opportunities

Florida State University's broad range of faculty expertise could help maximize the quality of life of senior adults, according to President Eric J. Barron.

During a Dec. 9 event at Westminster Oaks, he praised a groundbreaking partnership between the university and the Tallahassee retirement community and the possibilities it presents for a vast array of research and other collaborations.

While many research institutions focus on a single part of the aging equation, Barron says Florida State can do more.

"When it comes to aging, we want to focus on the whole person to become a world leader in age-related issues," Barron said. "We have existing strong programs that address every facet of aging. This partnership is a perfect fit for many areas of study."

From straightforward "lifelong learning" programs for the enrichment of senior adults to interdisciplinary educational and research programs geared toward developing successful longevity, Barron gave numerous examples that included academic disciplines in nearly all of the university's 16 colleges, from geriatric studies in the College of Medicine and the College of Nursing to cognition studies in the College of Education, as well as the use of the human performance laboratory in the College of Human Sciences and the world-class program in neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychology.

Barron even suggested that retired military veterans who live at Westminster Oaks could serve as mentors to the university's student-veterans.

The affiliation between the two institutions includes lending privileges for Westminster Oaks' 656 residents at the university's libraries, intern placement of Florida State students at Westminster Oaks, and Florida State student and faculty access to Westminster Oaks' Maguire Center for Lifelong Learning facilities, as well as other programs and activities that may be developed later.

"We have had a long relationship with Florida State spanning many decades, but this affiliation formally takes the relationship to a whole new level," said Westminster Communities of Florida Chief Executive Officer Roger Stevens. "Our board of directors and residents couldn't be more pleased."

Garnett S. Stokes, Florida State's provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, called the partnership a wonderful opportunity for university students and faculty to work more closely with the residents of Westminster Oaks, and for Westminster Oaks to strengthen its collaboration with Florida State and to have access to many of the on-campus benefits enjoyed by students and faculty.

"We have begun to really focus on what we need to do to ensure that our students are successful at graduation and beyond," Stokes said. "We've been building internship opportunities and practical experience into majors and the Liberal Arts Curriculum for the 21st Century. So this partnership really helps us cement some of those possibilities for students and really better prepare them for the world."

The partnership is a good fit with Florida State's recently initiated Institute for Successful Longevity, which allows the university community to address lifelong learning and what it means to engage people for successful lives in the long run, Stokes said.

Don Wilson, executive director of Westminster Oaks, expressed delight in being able to offer even more opportunities for lifelong learning and enrichment to its residents through this enhanced partnership with Florida State.

"Our residents can now go to the university library, audit FSU classes, participate in research or trials, enjoy shared events both at Florida State and Westminster Oaks, and so much more to come," Wilson said.

Westminster Oaks, a Continuing Care Retirement Community and part of the Westminster Communities of Florida family, places a special emphasis on lifelong learning and active lifestyles as part of Westminster Communities of Florida's Westminster WellBeings program. It is home to many distinguished alumni and faculty of the university.

Marie Cowart, a former dean and professor in the College of Social Sciences who has been a resident of Westminster Oaks for three years, underscored the partnership's benefit to Florida State's students.

"Years ago, when I was in the College of Nursing, I brought students here and it was such a fine experience for them," Cowart said. "If students just sit in a classroom, all they learn about is theory. When they come here, they get to actually speak with people who've lived the things that students are studying. It improves students' appreciation of various generations.

"I think it's wonderful that we're finally formalizing this partnership which has been going on for about 30 years," Cowart said.