University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
June 1, 2011
Contact: Jennifer Z. Ekman, USA Public Relations, (251) 460-6360

USA and Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center Form New Center for Generational Studies


The University of South Alabama and Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center have established the new Center for Generational Studies in order to improve the quality of life for Gulf Coast residents across the lifespan.

By building on an existing 25-year collaboration, the two organizations hope to secure additional funding to support research, training and program delivery on aging and intergenerational relationships through this new, innovative partnership. The Center for Generational Studies will allow USA and Via to develop into national leaders in community-based research on these topics.

The Center for Generational Studies will foster a unique “living –  research environment” for programs, research and education.  Future program development priorities will include increased community based services, professional and volunteer training, multi-generational approaches in research and program delivery, and research to keep people and families healthy across generations.

 “Through the new Center for Generational Studies, the University of South Alabama is eager to partner again with Via on collaborative efforts that will better meet the needs of our older citizens and people across the lifespan,” USA President Gordon Moulton said.

Clint Jones, president of the Via Board of Directors, said, “The USA partnership will strengthen our programming capacity and increase support for our work in the community.”

USA Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. G. David Johnson said, “USA is excited to establish the Center for Generational Studies in partnership with Via, Mobile’s Center for Healthy Aging. Our programs in Gerontology, through the leadership of Dr. Roma Hanks, have long had a strong partnership with Via, and the Center for Generational Studies promises to take us to the next level. We have an opportunity to become national leaders in generational studies and in providing evidence-based programs that will strengthen the connections between persons of all ages in our community. We are very pleased to be part of this outstanding project.”
USA College of Arts & Sciences Dean Dr. Andrzej Wierzbicki said, “The Center for Generational Studies will benefit our faculty and students by providing an environment for research and learning through community partnership.  We know that the aging of the U.S. population will have a tremendous impact on families and communities.  Working with a community partner to promote healthy aging through research and service is not only timely, it is the right thing to do.”

Dr. Roma Hanks, director of programs in gerontology and chair of the department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, will serve as academic/research director of the Center for Generational Studies.

She said the center would seek to understand the importance of intergenerational relationships.

“Today 49,000,000 Americans live in multi-generational households; almost half of those live in households with three or more generations,” Hanks said. “On the other hand, 27 percent of older Americans live alone.  Research shows that both young and old benefit from intergenerational contact. The USA Center for Generational Studies will support research and programming to understand the benefits of intergenerational relationships and to promote healthy aging by bringing generations together.”

Sheila Sears, executive director of the Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center will serve as the community director of the Center. 

Sears said, “This unique alliance will demonstrate the benefits of using multi-generational methods in healthy aging programming.”

Faculty who teach in USA Programs in Gerontology or participate in research collaboration through the Gerontology Research Network will be affiliates of the Center for Generational Studies.  An Advisory Board will also be established to guide the work of the new Center.  A USA office will be located in the current the program in gerontology and a community office will operate in the Via Center location at 1717 Dauphin Street.  A major function of the Center will be to secure funding from grants and other sources to expand the Center’s scope of work.

It is anticipated that the Center for Generational Studies will have a far-reaching impact in the region.  The outcomes of advanced research based education and training and evidence- based program delivery will help guide future healthy living initiatives across all ages, Hanks said.


USA Logo