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Healthier, Happier Aging

September 9, 2008 — Gradually, everything became more difficult for Jessie Goodwill. As she aged, everyday tasks, such as buying groceries, writing letters, and vacuuming her living room, became increasingly challenging. Like many seniors, she wanted to remain in her own home, but in order to do so, she needed help from her children. Her son, Wilford Goodwill, watched his mother’s age and dependence on others steadily increase. He realized that her story was not unique – there was a clear need for more research and better programs for senior citizens. He promised himself that when he had the financial capacity, he would do everything possible to help others like his mother. 

Wilford Goodwill kept his promise and, over the last ten years, he and his wife, Dorothy, have invested in two programs at the University of Utah that help social work students become more knowledgeable about aging. In 1997, the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program was established to mobilize groups of students and volunteers to help improve the health, safety, and quality of life for community-dwelling seniors. Four years later, they established the W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging which supports research initiatives in the area of gerontology. As these successful programs began to outgrow the space available within the College of Social Work, Wilford Goodwill again saw a need, and again responded. 

On Wednesday, September 17, 2008, the University of Utah College of Social Work will proudly celebrate the opening of the new Wilford W. and Dorothy P. Goodwill Humanitarian Building. This 15,000 square foot addition to the original social work building will not only house the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program and the W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging, but also feature a state-of-the-art clinical training center, a community meeting room, and technology-enhanced classroom space. 

But the education of social work students at the U will be enhanced by more than technology alone. The Utah Commission on Aging, the Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies Serving the Elderly, and the Caregivers Coalition will all have office space and personnel in the Goodwill Humanitarian Building. Collaborating with these agencies, the U’s Center on Aging, and the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program, the College of Social Work will host meetings, conduct trainings, and perform evaluations in this new space. 

“Students will learn how community agencies work with one another to address significant problems,” said Bill Farley, the director of the W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging. “A community that’s organized can be more efficient.” Together, these entities will focus on various areas of aging, including long-term care, mental health, community-based services, geriatric medicine, and retirement policies. 

“This collaboration of academic programs and service providers will allow us to address some big-picture issues while keeping our eyes on the real-life needs of seniors,” said Jannah Mather, dean of the College of Social Work. “Our budding scholars and practitioners now have the resources necessary to dramatically improve the quality of life for future generations of seniors.” 

On August 19, 2008, Wilford Goodwill passed away at the age of 90. Until his death, he and Dorothy lived independently in their own home – something his mother had been unable to do. Through their generosity and investment in students at the U, the Goodwills hope to allow other seniors the same option. 

The ribbon cutting celebration for the Wilford W. and Dorothy P. Goodwill Humanitarian Building (395 South 1500 East) will be held from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm on Wednesday, September 17, 2008. The public is invited to help celebrate with tours, refreshments, and entertainment.