2020 Conference Program

Rx for Healthy Aging

This year’s theme—Rx for Healthy Aging —Prescriptions for older adults and pain management have been widely featured in the news in recent months. Building on this issue and the issues related to the complexities of care for many frail elders, the 15th annual Art & Science of Aging (2020) embraces a holistic theme “ Rx”  (shorthand for ‘prescriptions) that features prescriptions for healthy aging in all dimensions of life – emotional, spiritual, social, physical, and mental. The conference seeks to offer sessions that focus on positive healthy aging strategies that professionals can foster on the part of their older clients. It also focuses on ways that any older adult can identify and adopt alternative approaches to managing chronic illnesses and pain, coping with end of life choices and many of the other challenges that are part and parcel of aging.   Our purpose is to educate everyone – professional and consumer – with evidence-based prescriptions for healthy aging that they can adopt and adapt to their own circumstances.

Download 2020 Conference Program Flyer here.


Continuing Education Credits (CEU): N = Nursing  O = Occupational Therapy  S = Social Work (S* =PAIN MANAGEMENT)  R = Recreation Therapy  H= Nursing Home Administration

Opening Session

Dr. John Mulder (MD, FAAHPM, HMDC)

Hope and Health at the End of Life  (N,O,S,R,H,C)

Morning Breakout

Session 1. Morning Star Holmes
Stories Matter: The Art of Asking Questions and Listening  (N,O,R,H,S)
Session 2. Trudy Ngo-Brown
What’s Art Got to Do with It?  (N,O,R,H,S)
Session 3. Brenda Roberts & Mark Roberts
Sophie the Wonder Dog: Service Dogs for Persons Living with Dementia  (N,O,R,S)
Session 4. Catherine Jacobs & Tom Emigh
Family Meetings: A Team Approach to Family Harmony (N,O,R,S)
Session 5. Jane Toot
Intergenerational Education - First Step in Building Bridges in Community (N,O,H,S)
Session 6. Student Presenters
Exploring Aging Issues with Student Researchers

Student Research Posters

Early Afternoon Breakout

Session 7. Juliana Barla
Recreational Therapy and Technology: A Non-Pharmacological Approach to Cognitive Stimulation (N,O,R,S)
Session 8. Melissa Villarreal, Glen Brookhouse, Jenn Boerman, & Elise Piersma
Aging and Homelessness: A growing concern (N,O,R,S)
Session 9. Cheri Fox
Learning to Walk in the Dark:  Adjustment to Age Related Vision Loss  (N,O,R,H,S)
Session 10. Carol Robinson
There is an "I" in TEAM! Your voice matters when negotiating your care with your healthcare team. (N,O,R)
Session 11. Christina Pierpaoli-Parker 
Sleep, health, and aging: Implications for individuals & institutions (N,O,R,H,S*)
Session 12. Megan Feyer
Creating a Meaningful Life Through Creativity for Those Living with Dementia (N,O,R,H,S)

Mid Afternoon Breakout

Session 13. Jennifer Ford & Libby MacQuillan
The Healthy Brain: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Evidence (N,O,R,H,S)
Session 14. Meri Goehring
Training for Athletes over 50 years of age  (N,O,R,H)
Session 15. Myrna McNitt
Strengthening Kinship Families: Grandparents Parenting the Second Time Around (N,O,R,S)
Session 16. Dawn DeVries & Allison Shoemaker
Non-Pharmacological Pain Management Interventions for Older Adults (N,O,R,H,S*)
Session 17. Heather Wallace
A Book My Body Wrote: Using written narrative to explore personal health and illness experiences (N,O,R,S)
Session 18. Kate Wert & Susie Marsh
Organizing for Emotional Health (N,O,H,S)


Panelists: Catherine Jacobs, Carol Robinson, Jennifer Ford, Dawn DeVries, Meri Goehring, Christina Pierpaoli-Parker, Myrna McNitt, & Heather Wallace

Moderator: Jennifer Feuerstein



9:00 am – 10:30 am  OPENING SESSION

Welcome – Conference Overview and Introduction
Dr. George Grant, Dean, College of Community & Public Service

Jennifer Feuerstein, Associate State Director, AARP MI

Conference Overview & Introduction
Dr. Priscilla Kimboko, Conference Coordinator


Hope and Health at the End of Life

Many dread the prospect of growing old, but aging can be a period of joy, peace, and meaningful life. Even in the face of a terminal illness, life can be full and abundant. “Health” is not equivalent to the absence of disease. This presentation will focus on factors essential to a meaningful quality of life and define characteristics of hope and an approach to reframing hope when life is drawing to a close.

Keynote Speaker

PRESENTER: John Mulder, MD, Chief Medical Consultant for Hospice and Palliative Care

Dr. Mulder has been involved in end of life care for over 35 years, serving a variety of clinical and administrative roles in hospice and palliative medicine. He currently serves as the Chief Medical Consultant for Hospice and Palliative Care for Holland Home, Medical Director for Trillium Institute, and Director for the Mercy Health Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program. He is in demand nationally as a speaker on a variety of topics related to end of life, palliative medicine, and symptom management. He has been acknowledged for his efforts locally and nationally, and in 2019 was honored with the Palliative Medicine Community Leadership Award by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.


Upon completion of this workshop attendees will be able to;

  1. Identify the characteristics of normal aging
  2. Describe important factors in health and wellness at the end of life
  3. Define a framework for understanding and hope

10:15 am BREAK


Loosemore Auditorium

Stories Matter: The Art of Asking Questions and Listening (N, S, NH, O)

The stories we tell as we age are important to us, but their meanings and significance are not always clear. This session will teach caregivers tools to help older adults tell their stories and make sense of their importance. By learning to tune into the deeper significance of these stories, even when they seem mundane or repetitive, both the caregiver and the recipient of care create opportunities for greater well-being. From a practical perspective, this session teaches the art (and science) of asking questions and listening to the answers, allowing the recipient of care to gain perspective on their life and build closer connections.

PRESENTER: Morning Star Holmes, M.A. Applied Behavioral Science;  Founder, Transitional Wisdom

Morning Star Holmes is a professional transitional life coach, family consultant, and author with more than 25 years’ experience working with organizations to reach their full potential, and individuals and families facing age-related decline or life-threatening disease and life transitions. She holds a B.S.in Human Services from the University of Oregon and an M.A. in Applied Behavioral Science, with an emphasis on Consulting and Coaching, from Bastyr University in Seattle. She is also a certified Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) trainer and consultant.


Upon completion of this workshop, attendees will learn:

  1. Skills to listen to others’ stories and discover their deeper meaning
  2. How to ask questions that support older adults to define their legacy
  3. Tools to build trust and deepen the connection with the people you care for


What’s Art Got to Do with It?

Whether art has always been a significant part of your life or you’ve never considered yourself an artist, this session will make the case for why engaging in art-making activities should be a part of everyone’s wellness plan, especially as we get older.

Presenter: Trudy Ngo-Brown, M.Ed. Educational Leadership, BA Economics; Director of Arts + Tech


Trudy Ngo-Brown is the Director of Arts + Tech at West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT) and leads a team of teaching artists to create dynamic learning spaces for students to build their creative confidence and elevate their voice within our community. She has been with WMCAT since 2015 and has almost 20 years of combined experience in education as a K-adult classroom teacher, teacher educator, and education consultant.


Upon completion of this workshop, attendees will:

  1. Understand how participatory arts can be integrated into a holistic wellness plan, providing positive psychological, physical and emotional health benefits for older adults.
  2. Be able to identify key components of effective creative aging programming.
  3. Learn about offerings provided by West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology.
  4. Increase their awareness of WMCAT's Creative Aging offerings


Sophie the Wonder Dog: Service Dogs for Persons Living with Dementia

Have you ever wondered what a service dog can do for a person living with dementia? Maybe you have wondered what the difference between a service dog and therapy or emotional support dog is. Wonder no more. Meet Sophie the dementia service dog as Mark and Brenda Roberts share the wonderful impact Sophie has on both of their lives. Mark is living with dementia and Sophie is his constant companion. Mark and Brenda will discuss how Sophie has improved Mark’s quality of his life and the quality of their relationship.

PRESENTERS: Brenda Roberts, Director of Quality Assurance and Education Michigan Assisted Living Association, MA Education Administration and Community Leadership & Mark Roberts


Brenda Roberts has a Certificate in Advanced Clinical Dementia Practices from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Central Michigan University in Education Administration and Community Leadership and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Alma College. She holds certifications as a dementia trainer, coach, consultant and engagement leader from Positive Approach to Care. Brenda and her husband Mark, who is living with young onset dementia, dementia advocates, trainers, and speakers.

Mark Roberts

Mark is a husband, father, and grandfather.  Mark was employed for over 25 years as the Mechanical Department Supervisor for Alma College, where he was responsible for maintaining heating, air-conditioning, and plumbing for the entire campus.  Mark left his position at the college when he was diagnosed with young-onset dementia. Throughout his life, Mark has been an active volunteer in his community:  coaching Special Olympics Basketball & building sets, working backstage and serving on the board of directors of the local civic theater, acting as a Red Cross Disaster Responder and more.  Mark continues to volunteer at church where he sings in the choir, assists with communion, and helps with the sound system.  Mark has also started a men’s club, persons living with and without dementia who meet for coffee and socialization followed by working together on church maintenance and repair projects.  He serves as a dementia advocate and mentor by speaking at public forums.  Mark frequently works alongside Brenda as well as international dementia educator, Teepa Snow, at various dementia educational

Sophie is Mark’s dementia service dog.  She is a Bichon Frise. Sophie was trained by Deb Beean of DD Kennels, Ithaca, MI: 989-763-9606, ddkennelsbeean@netscape.net


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast service animal and therapy animals.
  2. Describe 3 benefits of a service dog for persons living with dementia.
  3. Describe the access rights of a service dog under the ADA.
  4. Identify the two questions a place of business can ask a person with a disability regarding their service dog.


Family Meetings: A Team Approach to Family Harmony

Family harmony is an important component of healthy families and arguably more critical as families navigate issues involved with aging.  As individuals age, it is important to have discussions regarding living arrangements and who will be the named decision makers when an older adult is not able, for example.  Families may choose to ignore these difficult conversations until matters must be addressed, which often result in conflict and disharmony. The decisions made during family strife generally don’t reflect a family consensus and are ripe for lifelong family division.   The session will introduce the concept of family meetings in the context of exploring estate planning and an individual’s wishes for their best life as they age.   Additionally, the session will outline the format of family meetings, the benefits of outside facilitators, and the tools to continue family dialogues to help keep families strong when conflicts arise.

PRESENTERS: Catherine Jacobs, Juris Doctor, BA & Tom Emigh, MA, Ph.D. candidate


Catherine Jacobs, J.D., provides comprehensive estate and succession planning for individuals, families, and businesses. Catherine owned and operated her own law firm for seven years where she helped families plan for their future, provided elder law planning services in the areas of Medicaid qualification, and assisted clients with loved ones with special needs in addition to her core trust and estate planning services. A well-respected advocate, Catherine still approaches her business the same way – with a deep understanding of clients’ needs and a plan for their future and beyond. She regularly speaks on topics of estate and succession planning, elder law and special needs care all over the state of Michigan for associations, foundations, and universities. Catherine also devotes numerous hours and resources to serving on community boards and committees for Elder Law of Michigan, Ada Township, Senior Neighbors Grand Rapids, Caregiver Resource Network, the Council on Aging and Forest Hills Community Foundation.

Tom Emigh has significant experience in leadership development, administration, supervision, culture change, and program and policy development and implementation. He has owned Acorn Leadership Consulting since 2006 and more recently has served as a consultant to the Family Business Consulting Group, focusing on supporting and improving family teams through counseling/coaching, mediation, generational team development, conflict management, and skills development training.


Upon completion of this session, participants will:

  1. Know what a facilitated family meeting is.
  2. Understand the value of family meetings as a tool to increase communication and build understanding regarding plans, details, decisions, and emotions around the aging process.
  3. Know the most common issues discussed at a facilitated family meeting when discussing healthy aging for the whole family.
  4. Learn best practices for successful family meetings.

Intergenerational Education - First Step in Building Bridges in Community

A three-year academic class in the Honors College engages intergenerational participants, first-year students, and elders, each Fall semester. The goal is to study and discuss issues familiar to both audiences which have an influence on the success of our society. Each student brings their own experiences and expertise to a weekly afternoon class realizing that each generation is a resource with problems but not a problem. Students learn how to focus, conduct and project such interaction and the directions it can take. Hopefully, at GVSU this is the first step toward a Center for Creative Aging.

PRESENTER: Jane Toot, PhD-Wayne State; MA-George Washington U; BS in PT-University of M


Dr. Jane Toot has held several administrative positions in the Physical Therapy departments at Northern University and Northwestern University as well as Dean of Education, Director of the Center for Creative Aging and Director of the Elder Hostel Program at Endicott College in Boston. At GVSU she was the Dean of the College of Health Professions and currently is a professor in the Meijer Honors College specializing in aging, psychological/sociological issues in medical care and research in senior medical care. Outside of GVSU, she has served on several boards including Emmanuel Hospice, West Shore Symphony, North Ottawa Community Hospital, and Porter Hills Retirement Community.


Upon completion of this session, participants will:

  1. Know the over-all goals and why they are important in this geographic area
  2. Learn how such a course is designed and conducted
  3. Learn about different models and how well they fit the needs of the area.
  4. Learn about the next steps toward establishing a comprehensive setting.

SESSION 6                   

Exploring Aging Issues with Student Researchers

In this session, students, both undergraduate and graduate, who will present in the student poster session are each given 5-7 minutes to share their research projects. Together they have covered a variety of topics. Over the past months, they have been working with faculty mentors, explored the most current research, some have conducted experiments and critically evaluated studies aimed at understanding aging-related issues and problems.  This session will give you an opportunity to hear what these budding researchers have done before they join the forces to help improve the quality of life among older adults in our community.


11:15 am STUDENT RESEARCH POSTERS                                      

Poster 1

Investigating microRNA miR-34b and miR-34c expression in SH-SY5Y cells for Parkinson’s disease research


Mark Cunningham, Cell Molecular Biology, graduate

Faculty Research Advisor: Sok Kean Khoo, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cell and Molecular Biology

Investigating microRNA miR-34b and miR-34c expression in SH-SY5Y cells for Parkinson’s disease research

Abstract: One of the main causes of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the aggregation of the protein α-synuclein. Limiting the production and aggregation of α-synuclein is thus a key goal in the development of new therapies for PD. One possible way to accomplish this is by utilizing microRNAs – short, noncoding RNA molecules which repress gene translation. miR-34b and miR-34c are two microRNAs which inhibit translation of α-synuclein. Using a differentiated neuronal cell as a model for degenerating PD neurons, I will measure the effect of increased concentrations of these miRNAs on α-synuclein production and aggregation as well as cell survival.

Poster 2

Comparison of Physical Activity Scale for Individuals with Physical Disabilities and Accelerometry in Arthritic Individuals


Autumn Decker, Kinesiology (undergraduate, currently in Master of Science program at University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee)

Faculty Research Advisor: Scott Strath, PhD

Abstract: Adults age 64-88years that self-reported with arthritis completed a seven-day monitoring period that included wearing a thigh-worn activPAL (AP) accelerometer during all waking hours and completion of physical activity scale for individuals with physical disabilities (PASIPD) after day 7. Results from the PASIPD were compared to accelerometer data to get spearman correlations and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests for light physical activity (LPA) and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). PASIPD was significantly correlated with AP LPA (.436, p=.012) and AP MVPA (.435, p=.012) On average, PASIPD underestimated AP LPA by 1.38 hours and overestimated AP MVPA by 1.34 hours

Poster 3

Mindfulness Meditation Effect on Life Satisfaction and Self-Esteem in Retirement Home Residents


Liam Hart, Psychology, undergraduate

Faculty Research Advisor: Jing Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Psychology

Abstract: Mindfulness can be used to describe a variety of practices and processes that generally involves focusing on the present moment and being conscious and aware. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression, so it is likely that it will increase life satisfaction and self-esteem. In this poster, I will propose a study that seeks to determine the effect of mindfulness meditation on life satisfaction and self-esteem in older adults living in retirement homes. Participants will undergo an 8-week mindfulness meditation intervention, following a 10-minute guided meditation 4 times per week and will be encouraged to practice daily. Life satisfaction and self-esteem will be measured before and after the 8-week mindfulness meditation.

Poster 4

Efficacy of Non-Pharmacological Interventions in Long Term Care Facilities to Optimize Healthy Aging


Piper Hogan, Social Work, graduate

Research Advisor: Jamie Langlois, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Social Work

Abstract: This study explores the impact of non-pharmacological interventions on quality of life with input directly from long-term care residents. This study explores what makes these interventions most efficacious.

Meaningful, non-pharmacological interventions have been shown to improve outcomes for residents of long-term care. This includes increased longevity, lower morbidity rates, the satisfaction of residents and lower public spending on health care.

This information is beneficial for long-term care facilities, future researchers, and policymakers (at all levels) because it allows for the optimization of non-pharmacological interventions, informs policy, and informs the distribution of resources in order to promote healthy aging.

Poster 5

Intergenerational Integration through Art Therapy


Kristen Karwan, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Psychology, undergraduate

Research Advisor: Jing Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Psychology

Abstract: Art therapy is one of the many ways to become involved with the aging community as a means of social support, which allows for self-expression via creative task and normalizing the concept of interacting with all ages. Research has shown that age-integrated societies can be beneficial in halting ageism and promoting life course flexibility as well as productive aging (Uhlenberg 2000). In this presentation, I will propose a program that involves using art therapy at local retirement homes to bring young and older generations together hoping to provide a new approach to how we interpret productive aging and growth.

Poster 6

Intergenerational Integration

Presenter:  Gabrielle Poeder, Psychology (undergraduate)

Research Advisor: Jing Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Psychology

Abstract: My research will be on the factors that cause separation between the younger and older generations. I wish to address how we can bridge the gap between these generations and discuss the benefits that can result from creating relationships between the different generations. In addition, I will include what changes could be made in order to ease the aging process, benefit younger individuals, and create a more integrated society.

Poster 7

β-synuclein as treatment for Parkinson’s symptoms in Drosophila


Gage Paul, Biomedical Sciences, undergraduate

Cory Gemmen, Cell and Molecular Biology, graduate

Research  Advisor: Sok Kean Khoo, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cell and Molecular Biology

Abstract: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder that impacts 1-2% of the elderly population. A hallmark of PD is α-synuclein (α-syn) protein aggregates, known as Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies can be targeted by β-synuclein (β-syn) a protein analog that has shown to reduce α-syn aggregation in cell and mouse models. In Drosophila melanogaster, human α-syn is expressed within its nervous system generating PD like symptoms. The flies are fed β-syn peptide and the effect of Lewy body inhibition by β-syn will be assessed by IHC-IF staining and climbing assays.

Poster 8

Improving Resolution of GAP-43 Isoforms: A Potential Biomarker for Alzheimer’s Disease


Sidney Weaver, Biomedical Sciences, undergraduate

Rebecca DeBaar, Biomedical Sciences, undergraduate

Kiley Hassevoort, Biomedical Sciences, undergraduate

Research Advisor:  John Capodilupo, Ph.D., Professor, Biomedical Science

Abstract: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by cognitive impairment. Our main focus is to extract and isolate the phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated isoforms of GAP-43, a growth-associated protein widely expressed in the brain. Previous findings have demonstrated that the phosphorylated isoform is indicative of learning and memory formation. We believe that the ratio of these two isoforms may serve as a novel biomarker for AD and a potential new target for drug therapy.  In this poster, we present background information and results from our current efforts using 2D-SDS-PAGE techniques in order to enhance the resolution of GAP-43 isoforms.

11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m.  LUNCHEON [Gordon Gallery, Hager-Lubbers Exhibition Hall, University Club]


SESSION 7                                                                                                    

Recreational Therapy and Technology: A Non-Pharmacological Approach to Cognitive Stimulation

This session will provide information about recreational therapy interventions that offer a non-pharmacological approach to active aging in the home and community.  The focus will be on how technology can provide the benefits of cognitive stimulation.  We will explore how easy it can be to exercise your brain with some of today's most popular technologies.

PRESENTER: Juliana Barla, CTRS, ATRIC, Recreational Therapist


Juliana Barla graduated with a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation and a minor in Psychology. She completed a 300-hour fieldwork placement with Life Therapeutic Solutions, Inc. working in home and community services, primarily with the elderly population and a 600-hour internship with South Texas Veterans Health Care System, working in poly-trauma, addiction and recovery medicine, community, hospice care, and skilled nursing. Upon completion of her CTRS, she started working with Life Therapeutic Solutions, Inc. primarily in the Stepping Stones program which works with older adults in Kent County providing Recreational Therapy in home and community for the past 2 years.


Upon completion of this workshop attendees will be able to;

  1. Identify the benefits to older adults of cognitive stimulation through technology; 
  2. Name 3-5 technology resources available online and in the community; 
  3. Identify positive and effective technology applications for cognitive stimulation in the home and community settings.

SESSION 8                                                                                                    
Aging and Homelessness: A growing concern

Adults aged 50 and older make up half of the individuals experiencing homelessness and have high rates of morbidity and mortality. Older adults encounter unique challenges and barriers that make them particularly vulnerable to homelessness. This presentation aims to teach participants about the growing problem of aging and homelessness, its impacts on physical and mental health, implications for other social justice concerns, and effective best-practices currently utilized both locally and nationally.

PRESENTERS: Melissa Villarreal, Ph.D., Glen Brookhouse, LLBSW / MSW candidate,  Jenn Boerman, LMSW, & Elise Piersma, BA, MSW Student


Melissa Villarreal, Ph.D., MSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work, GVSU

Melissa Villarreal teaches in both the MSW and BSW programs at GVSU: in the areas of families, children, human behavior, and diverse populations including older adults.    Dr. Villarreal worked for several years as a child & family therapist, an older adults care guidance worker, domestic violence therapist, a probation officer for adolescents, child guidance worker for a juvenile home, outreach clinician for status offenders, and as a clinical case manager for teen parents.  Special training or certifications include Licensed Master of Social Work, play therapy, Certified Addictions Counselor Level I, and Love & Logic Program Facilitator. 

Glen Brookhouse, LBSW

Glen Brookhouse is a graduate student at GVSU. Beginning in 2015, he focused his social work studies in the area of homelessness. Since that time, he has been employed as a counselor and advocate for homeless individuals. Currently, he is completing his MSW studies as a substance abuse therapist at Family Outreach Center in Grand Rapids. His position provides him with the opportunity to provide services to homeless and low-income individuals.

Jenn Boerman, LMSW

Jenn Boerman began her career providing case management services to families experiencing homelessness. She later transitioned into an administrative role participating in several collaborative projects focused on best-practices to address community housing needs. Jenn has extensive knowledge in creating and administering a variety of housing programs, from homelessness to home-ownership, that meet changing community needs. Jenn has been a Part-Time Social Work Professor at GVSU since 2010 and is a Licensed Master of Social Work,

graduating from GVSU in 2007.

Elise Piersma, BA, MSW student, and Graduate Assistant, School of Social Work at GVSU

Elise studied psychology and family studies in her undergraduate program. She has experience working as a Child and Family Therapist Intern since May 2019.  She previously has worked as a Research Assistant, Direct Care Worker with cognitively impaired adults, Teen Mentor and Community Guidance Support for Adolescents.


Upon completion of this presentation, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify contributing factors to homelessness among older adults.
  2. Understand the unique challenges and needs for older adults experiencing homelessness.
  3. Learn best-practices to address homelessness in the ageing population.

SESSION 9                                                                                                    

Learning to Walk in the Dark:  Adjustment to Age-Related Vision Loss 

Adjustment to Vision Loss is best addressed in a holistic fashion caring for the functional, psychological, spiritual, and emotional realms of individuals experiencing age-related vision loss.  Personality factors, as evidenced by historical coping patterns and current resiliencies predict adjustment.   The importance of social support, processing of grief and loss and fostering a sense of purpose and meaning will also be addressed.



Cheri Fox, LMSW is a social worker for The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  She has experience working with older adults adjusting to vision loss and facilitates low vision support groups.  As a trained spiritual director, she is grateful to witness to the journeys of others as well as a mother of five fabulous adults on their own life journeys and wife of one supportive and loving husband.


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Address the role of loneliness and personality indicators in adjusting to vision loss and understand the role of social support.
  2. Participate in mindfulness exercises developed to enhance adjustment to vision loss.
  3. Understand the essential role of grieving and lament in adjustment.
  4. Reflect on their own sense of meaning as they contemplate helping others solidify their sense of purpose. 

SESSION 10                                                                                                  

There is an "I" in TEAM! Your voice matters when negotiating your care with your healthcare team.

Increasingly, healthcare providers are being encouraged to provide "person-centered care" to their patients. What does that look like? From a healthcare provider standpoint, eliciting a person's goals and preferences for care can be a challenge. This workshop will provide insight into the background of medical decision-making and demonstrate ways participants can communicate with their provider to help them describe and negotiate their goals for care.

PRESENTER: Carol Robinson, DNP, MS, BSN, RN, CHPN, Community Coordinator


Dr. Robinson has had an extensive and varied nursing career in clinical, educational and leadership positions, with a special focus on life-limiting illness. Her passion for the care of chronically ill patients led to extensive experience with patient/family communication relative to the quality of life and treatment preferences.  Her scholarly work has focused on communication skills for health professionals, including advance care planning conversations reflective of a person’s values, beliefs, and preferences for end-of-life care.


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe how to organize your thoughts and priorities for a visit with your healthcare provider
  2. Describe strategies to get a full understanding of proposed treatment options
  3. Effectively evaluate the goal of care options according to your own values and beliefs


Sleep, health, and aging: Implications for individuals & institutions

Growing evidence points to sleep as a modifiable, behavioral risk factor for metabolic syndrome, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementias. However, few appreciate the impact of sleep on their overall health and aging processes, and even fewer receive training in behavioral sleep medicine principles to promote healthy aging.  Summarizing the most recent available evidence, this workshop will describe normative changes in sleep with aging and the underlying mechanisms, clarify contributions of sleep to mood, metabolism, and memory in later life, and offer evidence-based cognitive-behavioral tools for improving and optimizing sleep.  Further, the session will explore strategies for enhancing sleep in institutional settings, and provide resources and possible solutions related to implementing geriatric behavioral sleep approaches

Presenter: Christina Pierpaoli-Parker, MA, Ph.D. student


Christina Pierpaoli-Parker, M.A. Ph.D. Student in Clinical Geropsychology

Christina is completing her clinical psychology residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), in Alabama.  Her research and clinical interests explore the intersection of older adults’ physical and psychological health, focusing on adjustments to, and behavioral management of chronic health conditions including HIV, metabolic syndrome, osteoarthritis, and insomnia. Her current research focuses on developing and evaluating the Senior Sex Education Experience (SEXEE), a psychoeducational intervention for promoting and improving older adults’ sexual health. Christina’s work has been widely published and presented. She translates her academic research for Eng(Aging), her blog on Psychology Today.  She also contributes to Healio, clinical news, and publication for health care specialists and Senior Life, a community newspaper, as a geriatric behavioral medicine expert.


Upon completion of this session, participants will:

  1. Understand the contributions of sleep to older adults' physical, psychological, and cognitive health;
  2. Receive evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral tools to optimize sleep and strategies for enhancing sleep environments in institutional settings (e.g. assisted living, hospitals, hospice);
  3. Recognize normative changes in sleep with aging;
  4. Have the opportunity to ask questions and receive additional sleep medicine resources

SESSION 12                                                                          

Creating a Meaningful Life Through Creativity for Those Living with Dementia

In this presentation, we will explore non-pharmacological interventions for those living with Dementia. This will include current research about how creativity affects the brain. More specifically, it will look into music, art, dance and other creative activities. There will be real-life examples shared of how the presenters have seen this play out in their work environments

PRESENTERS: Megan Feyer, BSR- Therapeutic Recreation. Majors in TR and Psychology, CTRS- Lead Life Enrichment Assistant & Stacy Remington, Bachelors in Therapeutic Recreation, CTRS


Megan Feyer, BSR- Therapeutic Recreation

Megan Feyer has been a CTRS for 1.5 years!

She graduated from Calvin University in the Spring of 2018 with a degree in TR and a major in Psychology. She has 4 years of experience working with the geriatric population and dementia and currently works at Clark Retirement Community on the memory care unit. She also has experience in geriatric behavioral health.

Stacy Remington, Bachelors in Therapeutic Recreation, CTRS

Stacy  Graduated from Calvin University with her BSR in Therapeutic Recreation in 2015.  
She is now the Lead Life Enrichment Assistant/CTRS in the skilled nursing unit at Clark Retirement, where she coordinates group sessions using creativity activities e.g., cardio drumming, art, and music therapy to help reduce the amount of pharmaceutical usage happening in the facility and working towards becoming more person-centered.


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify creative interventions
  2. Identify the benefits of using creativity for those living with Dementia
  3. Understand how creativity affects the brain.

2:00 p.m. BREAK


SESSION 13                                                                          

The Healthy Brain: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Evidence

This session will focus on common neurodegenerative diseases, and will briefly review current treatments for these diseases, none of which target the underlying neurodegeneration. Knowing that what patients and health care providers really need are treatments that can stop or slow neurodegenerative processes and promote brain health.  Emerging research evidence suggests that several healthy dietary factors may influence the central nervous system, preserving cognition, or may counteract aging and associated neurodegenerative diseases in the aging brain.  Strategies that incorporate these specific dietary factors that can promote healthy brain function will be covered.

PRESENTERS: Jennifer Ford; MA, RDN, CSO, Assistant Professor Clinical Dietetics GVSU & Libby MacQuillan, Ph.D., RDN


Jennifer Ford is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Assistant Professor, Clinical Dietetics Jennifer Ford has both Bachelor's and Master's degrees. In addition, she is board certified as a Specialist in Oncology Nutrition.  She has worked in the dietetics field for over 20 years in a variety of clinical and outpatient settings and has served a wide range of patient populations.  More recently Jennifer has worked in administrative roles in nutrition and diabetes services, clinical operation, and outpatient and community nutrition. She is currently a faculty member at GVSU in clinical dietetics and is pursuing a doctoral degree in education.

Libby MacQuillan, Ph.D., RDN, CHSE earned her doctoral degree in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences from Western Michigan University (WMU) in 2017. Libby has worked clinically as both a registered dietitian and a lactation consultant. She earned her Master’s degree and completed the dietetic internship program at WMU in 2010, where she taught undergraduate dietetics courses as a graduate teaching assistant and, later, as an adjunct instructor. For the past three years, she has served as an Assistant Professor in the Coordinated Graduate Program in Clinical Dietetics at Grand Valley State University. Her research interests include spatial analysis of nutrition-related health outcomes, maternal-infant nutrition, and pedagogical advancements in the clinical education of registered dietitians, such as the use of simulation.


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify specific foods and dietary phytochemical classes that have shown promise as potential neuroprotective agents in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD).
  2. Interpret emerging evidence linking diet and specific nutrients with cognitive function and depression in aging.
  3. Correlate specific foods and neuroprotective effects on AD, PD, and the aging brain.
  4. Discover nutrition strategies to improve quality of life and brain health.

SESSION 14                                                                                                  

Training for Athletes over 50 years of age

Baby boomers who once fueled the growth of the fitness industry in their younger years are now gravitating toward fitness-related activities, including athletic competition, in their later years. Others have taken up exercise programs as they grow older. The increase in the older adult population and a growing interest in competition and fitness has led to a steady rise in the number of older adult competitors. This presentation reviews how older athletes can manage some common problems that occur as a part of normal aging

PRESENTER: Meri Goehring, Ph.D., PT.


Dr. Goehring became certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists as a Geriatric Clinical Specialist in April of 2000 and was re-certified in 2009. Meri began teaching at Wichita State University in 1997 and then taught at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois until 2009, then GVSU in August 2009. Her research interests are in geriatrics, acute care, and integument.


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe how balance changes with aging and how older athletes can improve balance.
  2. Describe how bone health changes with aging and what older athlete can do to improve bone health
  3. Discuss how cardiovascular health changes with age and what older athletes can improve cardiovascular health
  4. Discuss how flexibility changes with aging and what older athletes can do to improve flexibility
  5. Describe how strength changes with aging and what the older athletes can do to improve flexibility


Strengthening Kinship Families: Grandparents Parenting the Second Time Around

This workshop focuses on the transformative work required to support grandparents raising grandchildren. Building on collaborative research “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” this workshop will focus on the important role of grandparent caregivers to the life of the child by helping the child maintain continuity of relationships to family and community members, church members and teachers. Long recognized grandparents need access to support in carrying out their role as a kinship caregiver to help them care for children who often have challenging behaviors. The workshop also covers the many benefits to the child of living with grandparents- focusing on attachment, identity, resilience and a sense of safety. In addition, helpful resources for the kin caregiver will be discussed as to their role as a caregiver is stressed as they meet their own issues of aging.

PRESENTER: Myrna McNitt, ACSW, LMSW, Instructor Spring Arbor University

Myrna McNitt has worked in foster care in the US, Africa, and England and has been a board member and committee member for the International Foster Care Organization for over 30 years. Myrna has worked as an international social worker in child protection in Kosovo, Azerbaijan, and the UK.  She has served as a kinship provider.  Her research agenda has included kinship care, social identity, and resilience. Myrna has taught across the curriculum in BSW and MSW programs in Michigan and Kenya for over 18 years. Today, she is teaching policy, theory and practice classes. In 2018 she was awarded the Teaching Excellence Award by Spring Arbor University.


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe promising approaches in working with grandparents raising grandchildren
  2. Describe at least one method to support grandparents raising grandchildren
  3. Describe the significant role grandparents playing in the grandchild’s positive development– attachment, social identity, and resilience

SESSION 16                                                                                                  

Non-Pharmacological Pain Management Interventions for Older Adults

Older adults experience pain for a variety of reasons, but pain is not something people need to live with. There are a variety of effective interventions to help older adults manage and reduce their pain without the risk of medication side effects. Interventions such as aquatic therapy, tai chi, and meditation have been shown to reduce pain and improve quality of life. This session will explore the research and present some of these non-pharmacological pain interventions.

Presenter: Dawn DeVries, DHA, DFRT, CTRS & Allison Shoemaker, CTRS


Dr. Dawn DeVries is an Associate Professor in GVSU's Recreational Therapy program. She has extensive experience working with older adults in a variety of settings from rehabilitation and subacute to memory care.

Allison Shoemaker is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist who works at SKLD in Wyoming where she serves as the Life Enrichment Director. Allison is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and has experience working with older adults and individuals with developmental disabilities. 


Upon completion of this workshop, attendees will

  1. Be able to identify 3 interventions older adults can use to reduce pain.
  2. Be able to describe 2 benefits of non-pharmacological pain management.
  3. Be able to identify tools to assess and evaluate changes in their pain.

SESSION 17                                                                                                  

A Book My Body Wrote: Using written narrative to explore personal health and illness experiences

Author and Holocaust Survivor, Victor Frankl, believed that the primary force of life is to find meaning. Finding meaning in illness and in care giving can be a difficult and deeply personal journey toward healing. Narrative story making and storytelling is a powerful tool for exploring the marks, scars, and memories we carry of illness and wellness and how they may change our ideas and attitudes towards ourselves. Narrative story making and storytelling can be used to enhance patient provider communication and relationships, build empathy and trust, serve as a method of self-care, and illuminate our own understanding and experience of health and illness. Workshop participates will explore narrative medicine principles and have an opportunity to practice narrative medicine skills through story-making, writing prompts and narrative medicine activities.

PRESENTER: Heather Wallace, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at GVSU


Dr. Wallace is a Gerontologist and Assistant Professor of Public Health at Grand Valley State University. Her scholarship explores the role of spirituality in late life and illness, as well as how multigenerational relationships and contemplative practices can be used to enhance spirituality, well-being, and health. She has developed and taught courses on spirituality in late life, vulnerable populations, health disparity, aging, and medical ethics.


Upon completion of this workshop, attendees will:

  1. Be able to describe and apply narrative methods to cultivate personal resilience and self-care in health and illness.
  2. Be able to understand the skills of attention, representation, and affiliation as narrative medicine skills that enhance relationships with the self and with health care providers.
  3. Learn how to use narrative for personal health advocacy through story and listening.

SESSION 18                                                                                                  

Organizing for Emotional Health

This workshop will focus on decluttering, downsizing and organizing spaces for older adults to help them age in place in the home with a focus on health & safety where they are surrounded by the possessions that mean the most to them and their family.  The session will address the importance of helping older adults deal with their attachments to ‘stuff’ and the mental ‘clutter’ that impacts day to day life.  It will also speak to the more severe issue of hoarding. It will discuss the resources available to deal with clutter challenges, chronic disorganization, and hoarding disorder

Presenters: Kate Wert, LMSW, Co-owner, Moxie Life Organizing, Susie Marsh, LBSW, Co-owner, Moxie Life Organizing


Susie Marsh, LBSW is a 12-year veteran of the professional organizing field and is also a licensed Social Worker in the State of Michigan.  She has 30 + years working in the mental health system in West Michigan, with 24 years working with the intellectually disabled and mentally ill populations.  Susie has been featured as a professional organizer on FOX17 morning show and has worked as a team member on 2 episodes of the TV show “Hoarders: Family Secrets” (Season 7, Episode 6 & 8). She serves as the Vice President for the Michigan Chapter of The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and is an active member with The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). Susie was the former owner of Susie’s Organization Solutions, LLC. Susie merged Susie’s Organization Solutions, LLC with fellow organizer and mentee, Kate Wert of Clean Slate by Kate in 2018 to form Moxie Life Organizing, LLC.  

Kate Wert, LMSW has been a professional organizer for the past 4 years and is a licensed Masters Level Social Worker in the State of Michigan . Kate has over 10 years of experience working as a social worker in the fields of foster care, children’s mental health and hospice. As a professional organizer, Kate has been a featured speaker at the West MI and Lansing Home & Garden Shows, a monthly column writer with Grand Rapids Magazine and featured on WZZM13. She is the Director of Marketing for NAPO Michigan. Kate was the former owner of Clean Slate by Kate, LLC.  Kate merged Clean Slate by Kate, LLC with fellow organizer and mentor, Susie Marsh of Susie’s Organization Solutions, LLC in 2018 to form Moxie Life Organizing, LLC


Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the differences between situational and chronic disorganization
  2. Identify three (3) key characteristics that define hoarding behavior
  3. Name at least one tool to use to identify excessive clutter/hoarding behavior
  4. Identify two (2) or more strategies for use in working those who exhibit excessive clutter/hoarding behavior
  5. Name three (3) or more local and national resources to assist those dealing with chronic disorganization and hoarding disorder.

3:15 p.m.  BREAK

3:30 p.m.  CLOSING SESSION                                                 


The keynote session of this conference and the workshops throughout the day have covered a multitude of “prescriptions” for healthy aging. This closing session will bring together selected panelists to summarize key points on healthy aging from their sessions earlier in the day.  These varied perspectives will show many dimensions of healthy aging, such as taking charge of one’s own health, adopting non-pharmaceutical approaches to pain management and to brain health, resilience and creativity, the importance of family caregivers and grandparent support, incorporating self-care with a healthy diet and adequate sleep, using help organizing to achieve emotional health. The moderator will direct questions between panelists and from the audience.  The session will close with a ‘call to action’ – each participant will be asked what they will do with what they have learned and invited to report on their actions for the Art & Science of Aging Facebook Community.

Moderator:  Jennifer Feuerstein, BAA, Certificate in Aging, Associate State Director, AARP


Jennifer Feuerstein is a community organizer, activist, public speaker, and writer on life after 50. She is the Associate State Director for AARP Michigan and Crew Member for WOTV4 as the on-air expert for the ‘Encore Years’. Her work involves helping older adults live their best lives and advocating on their behalf. She has written for various publications including Faith Grand Rapids and West Michigan Woman magazines on topics related to aging.  She is working with the City of Grand Rapids to certify the city as an age-friendly community. She sits on various boards, task forces and steering committees to move Grand Rapids forward to be equitable for people of all ages and diverse backgrounds.  And she’s disrupting aging by being a prominent voice to elevate the conversations of health, wealth, self and sex after 50.

Panelists: [Bios are included for each panelist with their primary presentation]

Catherine Jacobs, JD

Carol Robinson, DNP

Jennifer Ford, MA, RDN

Dawn DeVries, DHA

Meri Goehring, Ph.D.

Christina Pierpaoli-Parker, MA, Ph.D. candidate

Myrna McNitt, MSW

Heather Wallace, Ph.D.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to

  1. Identify at least four (4) dimensions of healthy aging
  2. Describe the importance of family and friends in promoting healthy aging
  3. Describe two (2) strategies for improving self-care and resilience
  4. Commit to taking at least one new step to achieve healthy aging

Page last modified February 26, 2020