UCSF-Fresno receives $1 million gift to open center on aging

Larry L. Hillblom
Larry L. Hillblom Special to The Bee

A $1 million gift from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation will help UCSF-Fresno establish a center on aging to serve a growing senior population in the central San Joaquin Valley, officials said Monday.

The center will bring together various health providers and geriatrics experts to provide coordinated care for senior patients, said Dr. Michael Peterson, interim associate dean of the University of California at San Francisco-Fresno medical education program.

Geriatrics patients are a unique population that often require a multidisciplinary approach to their care.

Dr. Michael Peterson, UCSF-Fresno

“Geriatric patients are a unique population that often require a multidisciplinary approach to their care,” Peterson said. “We have no organized way to do that here now.”

The gift from the Hillblom Foundation is timely: The state’s and region’s senior population is expected to nearly double in the next 15 years. The number of Californians aged 65 and older is expected to increase from 4.6 million in 2012 to more than 8.6 million in 2030, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

The senior population in the central San Joaquin Valley is one of the fastest-growing in California, said Helen Miltiades, a professor of gerontology at Fresno State. Between now and 2035, the elder population will increase by 68 percent. Only the Los Angeles area has a senior population increasing as fast, she said.

The fastest-growing segment of the older population in the Valley will be those 80 and older, who have the most health needs, Miltiades said. An aging center certainly is a good idea for the Valley, she said.

The Larry L. Hillblom Foundation hopes the aging center “becomes a one-stop point for people to get started and get directed for what they need to do and research to further the science of these diseases of aging,” said Terry Hillblom, vice chairman of the foundation’s board of directors and brother of Larry L. Hillblom.

The foundation, created in 1996, has granted more than $100 million to UCSF, UCLA and other University of California institutions, Terry Hillblom said. The funds have supported medical research with an emphasis on the University of California. Diabetes and issues of aging have been the focus of the grants.

8.6 millionNumber of seniors in California in 2030

Terry Hillblom said he and his brother, Grant Anderson, a member of the foundation board, decided “it would be nice if we could find a need and something we could help with more locally in Larry’s hometown, where he grew up.”

Larry Hillblom was raised in Kingsburg and graduated from Kingsburg High. He attended Reedley Community College and California State University, Fresno, before earning a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

Hillblom became a multimillionaire as a founder of DHL Worldwide Express, the largest courier service in the world. He eventually established a home in Saipan, a South Pacific island. At the age of 52, he was killed in an airplane crash near Saipan.

After a meeting with Peterson at UCSF-Fresno, Terry Hillblom said he and Anderson decided that the area of aging presented the greatest need in the Valley.

The foundation has helped fund the aging center at UCSF, and “there should be some good opportunities for some of the research gains in San Francisco to be passed on here,” he said. “Plus, it seems like from what we gathered from our discussions, the Valley could provide some great resources.”

UCSF-Fresno hopes to work closely with the aging center in San Francisco, Peterson said. Dr. Louise Walter, director of the UCSF program, spent a day in Fresno to discuss the best model for a center in Fresno, he said. UCSF has had an aging center since 1997. The Fresno center will be located on the UCSF-Fresno downtown campus.

Ideally, the Larry L. Hillblom Center on Aging at UCSF-Fresno not only will attract geriatrics specialists but someday can be a place for training specialists, Walter said. Nationwide there are only 6,200 geriatrics specialists, she said.

Barbara Anderson: 559-441-6310, @beehealthwriter