Cheryl Anagnopoulos

Cheryl Anagnopoulos

SPEARFISH | Gov. Kristi Noem recently announced the appointment of Cheryl Anagnopoulos, professor of psychology at Black Hills State University, to serve on the South Dakota Advisory Council on Aging.

A well-respected educator and researcher, Anagnopoulos is an expert in cognition, memory, and the psychology of aging.

Anagnopoulos began her work in gerontology 30 years ago while completing her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas. She said she looks forward to serving the state to help provide solutions to issues such as health care availability for the elder population. The Advisory Council on Aging ensures representation regarding administrative and social concerns that would improve the status of older South Dakotans.

“When you combine the vastness of our state with low population density and nursing home closures, we need to think about the loss of jobs and implications of sending elders hundreds of miles away for health care,” says Anagnopoulos. “What does the provision of services look like in our small communities when elder care might be more than family members can handle?”

Anagnopoulos says that mental and physical health are linked when discussing the aging process.

“When we think about aging, we assume it’s sad, awful, or depressing. But usually as people age they learn more coping strategies and new ways to engage in life,” she says.

At BHSU, programs in psychology, sociology, and human services all provide coursework to help prepare students for work with the aging population. Anagnopoulos said BHSU graduates have gone on to work in assisted living facilities, full care nursing homes, and memory care units, both as case workers and life enrichment directors.

Throughout her career, Anagnopoulos has continued work on memory and cognition in individuals with Alzheimer’s and healthy older adults that she began while completing her Ph.D. in gerontology.

In the 2000s, Anagnopoulos focused her research on cross-cultural aging. She examined American Indian access to and quality of care, along with the respect and care of aging family members and elders in the Lakota culture. She served as a research associate for a statewide American Indian Health Disparities group during this time and received grants for her work from the National Institute on Aging and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

When asked how people can age well, Anagnopoulos shares the following advice:

“Don’t smoke, exercise, find a good support network (friends who will help you through what may come), and eat healthy,” she said.

Anagnopoulos says research has shown those in rural communities live longer than our urban counterparts. Several factors contribute to this including lower degrees of stress and higher quality of living in rural areas such as air quality and lower crime rates.

This semester at BHSU, Anagnopoulos teaches Lifespan Developmental Psychology and she has also taught Psychology of Aging and Gerontological Psychology. She was named the BHSU Distinguished Faculty Member in 2010 for her high-quality teaching, research and service. A recognized leader, she currently serves as Faculty Senate President at BHSU, an elected body which expresses the faculty’s ideas for the welfare and improvement of the university.

While many enter the field of psychology wanting to work with children, Anagnopoulos is passionate about understanding the aging population and helping us all to age well.

“There’s a richness you learn from the elder population, their experiences and connection to the community,” says Anagnopoulos. “As adults we’ve all traveled different paths, and it gets harder and harder to predict outcomes. I’m looking forward to connecting with experts and health care professionals to help provide solutions to aging challenges for fellow South Dakotans.”

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