The 2023 Aging Summit: A Roadmap of Opportunity for the Aging Boom

Ohio ranks No. 6 in the United States for its older adult population. And, by 2034, the number of individuals over the age of 65 will grow 28 times larger than any other population in Ohio. This dramatic change touches every aspect of our society, from whos served through government policy and affordable health care to housing and economy. Yet, some older communities still lack the basic needs to survive.aging statistics

In Ohio, there is a 29-year life expectancy gap depending on the ZIP code in which a person lives. The average resident in Franklinton, an area of downtown Columbus, has a life expectancy 22 years less than those living just four miles away in a local suburb. As the older population increases, so too does the need to turn societal obstacles into opportunities for an “age-positive” future for all Ohioans.

Addressing adversity in 2024 with social, physical and economic circumstances in our older communities can build foundation for disparities and inequities to be eliminated by 2034. In response to the impending aging population growth, The Ohio State University College of Medicine Office of Geriatrics and Gerontology convened the 2023 Aging Summit to lay the groundwork for what’s possible to meet the needs of our aging society.

Carol R. Bradford, MD, FACS, dean of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and vice president for Health Sciences at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, opened the 2023 Aging Summit with a call to action.

Aging is one of the only areas in health care that impacts every single one of our communities. It is truly universal, yet, our society struggles with not only how we perceive aging, but also how we support our aging population,” Dr. Bradford said. “At Ohio State, we want to be a leader in those two key areas.

Shortly following, speakers presented statistics and research on aging in Ohio to see where improvement is needed most. One speaker in particular, Leanne Clark-Shirley, PhD, interim president and chief executive officer of the American Society on Aging, spoke on ageism and what Ohio State’s response could be. She called for diversification of health care and resources, reducing negative aging stigmatization and, ultimately, leading the way in cross-departmental, cross-college curriculum that embeds gerontology principles for all practitioners to prepare for the 2034 aging influx.


Reshaping practitioner training may seem ambitious, but for our health care leaders specializing in gerontology training and raising awareness on aging initiatives, this is just the top of the agenda following the aging summit.

In fact, the 2023 Aging Summit took on a comprehensive approach to problem solving. In a world café, summit attendees worked together in groups to answer prompts on aging. Questions like What could an age-positive future in Ohio be? and What more do we need to learn from our communities? were just some of the questions asked of participants. After collecting attendee responses, presented in an easy-to-read and accessible final report of the 2023 Aging Summit, a three-year plan on aging was crafted for Ohio State and central Ohio.

Within the first year of the plan, summit leaders are prioritizing outreach among aging individuals and those who either support the aging community or have the resources to do so. Learning from those who can provide insight on aging and investigating how we can improve the process in Ohio are crucial in the outreach phase. Knowing which hurdles we have to address and overcome is what the 2023 summit aimed to achieve.

Once those pieces are set in place, these resources will be used to implement intergenerational programs such as community-based learning projects, raising awareness about ageism and enhancing curriculum to prepare our workforce.

Jennifer Bechtel, program manager of the Ohio State Office of Geriatrics and Gerontology, says the college is identifying ways to supplement student curriculum to help create a more geriatric-savvy practitioner whos confident working with an older adult population.

“We need to shift the way we think,” Bechtel says. “The increase in our aging population will impact every aspect of medicine no matter what specialty you pursue, what you are studying or where you are working.

Bechtel said the change in aging population could be the next pandemic if we fail to build and identify our resources as well as our gaps.

“We learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was hard and exhausting to navigate the daily unknown in our world. What could we have done differently if we knew COVID was coming? We know our population is aging and we know there are opportunities to identify and learn about what we can do now to change the narrative.”

Currently the Ohio State Series in Applied Gerontology Education (S.A.G.E.) program is one of these curriculum enhancements offered at the university. Ohio State S.A.G.E. is a distance learning opportunity that teaches students to effectively provide health and social services to older adults through three semester-based courses. Upon completion, participants receive a Certificate of Completion in Gerontology from the Ohio State College of Medicine.

In the second year of the plan, attention shifts to further develop programs and services that meet the needs within the aging community. By improving inclusivity and accessibility in these programs and services, no one will be left behind. In the third year of the plan, the 2023 Aging Summit hopes to finish with a revolutionary aging network that connects service, health care providers and insurance. If achieved, this three-year plan will surely provide a better world for growing older in 2034 and generations after.

On the cusp of this decade is an opportunity in aging. Find out how you can engage with and support Ohio State’s three-year plan.