Exercise Science Professor Michelle Gray to Lecture on ‘Aging’

Sep 14, 2018 | Health, Human Performance and Recreation

Michelle Gray's seminar on aging will tackle problems associated with ageism and challenge stereotypes about growing older.

Michelle Gray’s seminar on aging will tackle problems associated with ageism and challenge stereotypes about growing older.

“Aging” should call to mind images of graying hair, wrinkled skin and the gradual loss of sensory and motor functions … right? According to exercise science professor Michelle Gray, this is thinking too far ahead, because in reality, she said, “aging starts at birth.”

“I don’t like the word ‘old,'” said Gray. The word carries with it a host of biases and connotations that ultimately contribute, often unconsciously, to ageism, or discrimination against individuals of a certain age group, she said. 

Gray will be addressing the problems associated with ageism and delving into the economics of growing old during her Signature Seminar Public Preview Lecture, “Aging,” to take place at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the Gearhart Hall Auditorium (GEAR 26). All on campus and in the community are invited to attend. The lecture will also be streamed via Facebook Live on the Honors College Facebook page.

This lecture serves as a preview for Gray’s Spring 2019 Honors College Signature Seminar, Aging, in which she is hoping to dispel many popular fears and misconceptions about older generations by encouraging students to reflect on implicit societal attitudes toward these “seasoned” populations. 

Exposure, she said, is one key to overturning these attitudes. “The good experiences of aging are the most difficult to convey to younger students – many of them have never met a non-frail older adult.” To this end, Gray encourages interaction between students and older populations, to help younger people see just how multifarious the aging process really is.

In addition, Gray said, “I’ll be asking students to think about aging economically. To take a step back from healthcare and costs and to discuss how we can improve quality of life, not only for this particular group but throughout the lifespan.” With the senior population in the United States expected to more than double by 2050, this is a very real and relevant topic.

“This course is about breaking down stereotypes,” she said. “The representations of older adults you see in pop culture, in marketing images – that’s not the way it works.”

Gray’s primary research area focuses on exercise training among older adults and maintenance of muscle mass throughout the lifespan. Gray has presented her work both nationally and internationally. Additionally, she teaches courses at the University of Arkansas on physical aspects of aging and exercise programming for older adults with chronic illnesses. She is an associate professor of exercise science in the Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation within the College of Education and Health Professions, and is currently the director of the Exercise Science Research Center, Office for Studies on Aging, and the College of Education and Health Professions’ Honors Program.  

Next spring, in addition to Gray’s course, the Honors College will offer Signature Seminars on B.S., taught by Jay Greene, distinguished professor in educational reform, and Brain and Music, taught by Elizabeth Margulis, distinguished professor and director of the Music Cognition Lab, and Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, a nationally respected behavioral neuroscientist. The Signature Seminars, designated HNRC 4013H in the university’s Catalog of Studies, focus on a wide range of cutting-edge topics, including cancer, water, internet, free speech and bad medicine. Honors students must apply to participate in these courses, and those selected will be designated Dean’s Signature Scholars. The deadline to apply is Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.

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