Hilton Chair to expand rural aging research

Jennifer Nacin

The College of Family and Consumer Sciences will welcome an internationally renowned professor who plans to expand and improve ISU research on aging in rural areas.

John Krout, director of the Gerontology Institute at Ithaca College in New York state has been named the 2004-05 Dean Helen LeBaron Hilton Endowed Chair for the college.

Krout said Iowa is the ranked fourth in the country in population over 65 years.

“Iowa is one of the oldest states in country in terms of the percentage of the population that is 65 and older,” Krout said. “Everyone has a stake in aging, whether you are a student, a parent or a grandparent. When you have a state that has a large population like that, it becomes even more important.”

Krout said he hopes his experiences and perspectives will help Iowa State develop better methods of research and teaching. He said this should result in better availability of services, housing modifications and quality of life for the older rural population.

Krout said a common problem he sees in rural America is that communities tend to think seniors drain the community, when they can instead contribute, help solve community issues and help the community thrive.

“We’ll look at better ways to see older adults as resources,” Krout said. “We’ll look at better ways to help communities see they can use them as resources.”

Maurice MacDonald, professor and chairman of human development and family studies, said Krout’s expertise is an element of academia that the college has been looking forward to learning from.

“For over 20 years, John has been the leading national authority on rural aging issues and service delivering issues to the elderly,” MacDonald said. “We hope to take advantage of that to help us make decisions on specifics on how to expand our efforts on teaching research and service on rural aging.”

MacDonald said Krout will work with faculty members, give lectures to the community and visit classrooms to further maximize gerontology research on campus. He said Krout’s experience will help the college expand their undergraduate and graduate offerings in the area.

Krout said he will visit Iowa State again in November, February and April.

He will give the keynote speech for an April 2005 conference on “Rural Aging in Iowa: Learning, Research and Engagement,” which could potentially improve policies for Iowa’s aging citizens and research efforts.

Krout’s gerontology accomplishments at Ithaca are similar to the goals Iowa State’s gerontology program has, MacDonald said.

“Our college has had a tradition of using the Helen LeBaron Hilton Chair professor for enriching our college by using faculty to create programs that the campus, the region and the state can benefit from,” MacDonald said.

“In his career in the state of New York, he has long been active in the area of aging in rural locations and service delivery issues that are complicated by rural location,” MacDonald said. “He has worked extensively with New York Extension to develop community cooperation for better service delivery, and we hope to learn how he has helped to organize those to potentially help us do better in Iowa.”

Krout will be speaking on “Aging in Rural America” at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Gateway Conference Center, at Highway 30 and Elwood Drive. The lecture is free and is open to the public.