Written by: Barb Powell, Communication Consultant
UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries
Tracy J. Trothen, Ph.D., will deliver two keynotes at the annual United Church Homes Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging’s Annual Symposium. “(Pro) Longevity: The Convergence of Ethics, Tech and Spirituality” will be held Friday, Sept. 30, from 9:30 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. (EDT) at the Nationwide Event and Conference Center near Columbus, Ohio. Both in-person and virtual participation are available.
The conference will center on the social, spiritual and ethical questions around longevity: How long do we expect to live? How will technology contribute to our longevity? Can we go too far in trying to increase longevity? How might technology and spirituality affect each other?
“We are inundated with messages that suggest that anything associated with extending the length of our lives — or that slows or overcomes aging — is good, said the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, UCH’s vice president of engagement and director of the Parker Center. “But what are the ethical consequences of these advances? And how does our understanding and experience as spiritual beings influence those messages? Our hope is that the event will invite each of us into a conversation that can helpfully balance these pro-longevity messages.”
Trothen is a professor of ethics at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, jointly appointed to its School of Religion and School of Rehabilitation therapy. In The School of Religion, she teaches courses on religion and technology, biomedical ethics, sport, and feminist theology, and in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, she teaches courses on ethics, and also spirituality in the graduate Aging and Health and Rehabilitation Health Leadership programs. She is a certified supervisor-educator in Clinical Spiritual Care (CASC), and an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada. She also is the author or editor of numerous books and articles.
Trothen’s work came to the attention of the Parker Center advisory committee, who met a year ago to begin planning the conference. Serendipitously, several members had just attended a virtual International Conference on Spirituality and Aging. “Dr. Trothen presented a session about the ethical considerations of extending the length of the human life span,” said Long-Higgins. “We were intrigued and invited her to be our keynote speaker.”
The first keynote, at 10 a.m., will address “Technology and Aging: the Ethical Issues.” A panel conversation with Trothen will follow the address. Panelists include Moderator the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO of United Church Homes; Dr. Joseph F. Coughlin, Ph.D., director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) AgeLab; Liz Cramer, post-acute care director, CDW Healthcare Division; and Ravi Kunduru, founder and CEO of QurHealth, a healthcare data management company that offers IT solutions based on analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence to help people live healthier lives.
Following lunch, Trothen’s second keynote will focus on “What does Spirituality have to do with it?” Again, a panel discussion with Trothen will follow her presentation. Moderated by Dr. Susan H. McFadden, Ph.D., professor emerita of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the panel includes the Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry, D.Min., associate for advocacy and leadership development for the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM); the Rev. Dr. Jessica Chapman Lape, Ph.D. assistant professor of interreligious chaplaincy and program director for interreligious chaplaincy, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, a UCC-related seminary in Minnesota; and Dr. Craig Dove, M.Div., Ph.D., staff chaplain at OhioHealth Hospice.
“I’m incredibly honored to be part of this symposium on the intersections of spirituality, ethics, technology, and aging. These topics and the ways in which they interest together is exciting for me personally because of my background in hospital chaplaincy and clinical bioethics,” said CHHSM’s Berry. “To be able to guide the panel conversation around the work of Dr. Trothen is truly a phenomenal opportunity. Trothen brings to the forefront ageism and ableism in her ethical analysis and eloquently confronts the limits of more traditional frameworks. The issues she raises speak so well to the mission of CHHSM and our members, and I look forward to joining in this dynamic conversation.”
For UCH President and CEO Daniel, such discussions are key in improving services to help people abundantly age. “Coming together for these discussions is vitally important to learn and grow as individual in this industry,” he said. “It’s imperative that we have these discussions to understand the deeper implications to health and wellness, and the ways we can assist in extending longevity in healthy ways.”