BGSU Launches New Optimal Aging Institute

$1 million gift from Medical Mutual of Ohio to bring critical services to region

We plan for nearly everything in our lives – careers, vacations, starting a family, retirement, and even death – except aging.

Though we know it is inevitable, we often ignore it. No one wants to think of reduced mobility, increased medical needs, nursing homes, hospitals or hospice. So, instead, many look at aging as something far off in the distance. However, a shift in thinking to prepare for optimal aging, paired with information and services to support this proactive approach, can make older adulthood more fulfilling and enjoyable.

As northwest Ohio’s older population increases, Medical Mutual of Ohio and Bowling Green State University are working together on a new initiative designed to help senior citizens live longer, healthier lives and to create new wellness programs for older adults on and off campus.
Through the University’s Center of Excellence (CoE) for Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan, the new Optimal Aging Institute’s (OAI) mission is tied to the seven dimensions of elder wellness: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, cultural and occupational.

aging-pod
Research conducted at BGSU such as use of the BOD POD® make the University an excellent resource for the community.

The OAI will provide learning opportunities and educational materials for service providers, health systems, entrepreneurs, corporations, caregivers and older adults. It will also be a resource for informational events on topics such as diabetes self-management, navigating the health care system, and learning social media, as well as for health and wellness classes like how to cook budget-friendly and nutritious meals, yoga and mindfulness meditation. BGSU’s arts and cultural events on campus also will be marketed through the initiative so that more members of the community can enjoy those activities.

“Medical Mutual’s contribution will support this initiative and build upon the company’s previous generous support of the BGSU Center of Excellence for Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan,” President Mary Ellen Mazey said. “I am grateful for their partnership in improving the well-being of the region’s citizens.”

“Bowling Green State University has been a valued, longtime customer,” said Rick Chiricosta, president and CEO of Medical Mutual. “Supporting these broad-based programs fits well with our company’s mission to help improve the overall health and wellness of the population in the regions we serve.”

aging-workout
The new Optimal Aging Institute will provide new and expanded programs such as this fitness class to older adults in the region. (

The new OAI will strategically mobilize University and community resources to create new and expanded programs, services and activities to create pathways to optimal aging.

“Instead of talking about the disease paradigm, the decline, this focuses on aging successfully,” said Dr. Nancy Orel, professor of gerontology and associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “You can be doing things today that will allow you to age successfully.”

“BGSU is well situated to meet many of the needs of the growing numbers of older adults,” explained Kathy Golovan, Medical Mutual’s chief health officer. “Approximately one-eighth of the population of Wood County is 65 or older and about one-fifth of the population of northwest Ohio is 60 or older. This initiative will better serve that population.”

“Medical Mutual of Ohio has already proved to be a great partner, and we are excited about working with them on this new initiative focusing on educational, service and research activities,” said Dr. Marie Huff, dean of the College of Health and Human Services and co-director of CoE.

aging-mazey
With a $1 million gift from Medical Mutual of Ohio, the BGSU Optimal Aging Institute will help the entire region with information and services to create a culture of wellness.

“Both of our institutions recognize the benefit of healthy and active lifestyles across the lifespan and in supporting our communities. With their generous support we will be able to advance a culture of wellness on our campus and in our region.”

The American Council on Education states that “higher education institutions are exceptionally positioned to create new frameworks for this population, and universities are drawing attention to the benefits of lifelong learning for older adults’ health and cognition.”

In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security, the Institute for Optimal Aging is designed to be an important asset to support and engage older adults in the community.