Cal State Fullerton broke ground Thursday for a $1.9-million gerontology center that will be one of the few academic centers in the West to study the effects of aging.
Scheduled to open in the fall of 1987, the center will address the problems associated with a major trend in America: increasing longevity.
"In 1900, only 4% of the population was over 65," said Dorothy Heide, president of the Cal State Fullerton Academic Senate. In 1980, that figure was 12%. But by the year 1230, she said, it is expected to be 22%.
Former congressman James Roosevelt of Newport Beach told the audience that the gerontology center will help older people lead more useful lives, thus benefiting the community. Too often, he said, young people consider their elders a problem rather than a potential resource.
'Put Us to Work'
"You young people should get the idea of a graying population that can be used and put to work," Roosevelt said. "Put us to work! Senior citizens have more to offer the community, state and nation than any other group."
University President Jewel Plummer Cobb said: "The 65-and-over age group is the fastest growing in the United States. . . . The 'graying of America' is creating a need for individuals with a knowledge about aging. . . . "
The new gerontology caenter, Cobb said, will be at the forefront of producing trained experts in the field of aging.
The center, she said, will study the economics, sociology and demographics of aging. And because much of the work will involve people off-campus, Cobb said, the center "will represent the results of a unique partnership between the university and the community."
Work of Older People
Cobb and other speakers noted that the gerontology center came about because of the work of a group of older people affiliated with Cal State Fullerton. That group, called Continued Learning Experience, came up with the idea in 1981 for a center on campus for the study of aging. Leo Shapiro of Brea, a retired vice president of Alpha Beta stores, was a driving force behind the move to get a gerontology center, according to speakers Thursday.
"If you want something done, get hold of Leo," Roosevelt said. "I call him Mr. Perseverance."
Shapiro, now 81, was a co-chairman, with William P. Coston of Placentia, in a fund drive to raise money for the center. "It was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be," he said, but worth the effort.
The building will be the first on campus financed entirely by private donations.
The center will have 15,000 square feet of class, office and assembly space. It will be located just south of the Fullerton Arboretum.