Marilyn Rantz, a professor emerita at the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing and prolific long-term care researcher, really would like to retire.

It’s just that she was awarded yet another grant to study avoiding hospitalizations in nursing home residents. The grant runs until 2020. 

“It’s what I do and I just couldn’t let it go, so I reeled it in,” says Rantz, 69, who next year will celebrate her 50th year as a nurse. 

Rantz has made a name for herself nationally since the 1990s in areas such as measuring the effectiveness of nurse care coordination and finding new delivery models of care for older adults. 

“Really, my passion is to improve nursing homes and improve options for older adults to help them age in place,” she explains.

That interest led to the creation of TigerPlace, a 15-year-old facility in Columbia, MO, which has a special aging-in-place designation. The sensor technology she helped develop there with nurse researchers and the U of M College of Engineering is now sold commercially.

Her success with environmentally embedded technology that measures mental and physical function also resulted in her induction into the National Academy of Medicine in 2012 — one of her proudest achievements. 

“I was sad that my mom and dad were both gone when that happened,” she notes.

It actually was a fall that her mom suffered at home, which contributed to her death, that put Rantz on the path to finding tech solutions to problems of aging. 

An earlier career-turning point occurred when she was finishing her master of science in nursing degree at Marquette University and took a job as a resident care administrator at a nursing home a few miles from her house. 

“I just fell in love with it,” she says of her first brush with long-term care. “I loved the residents. I loved the staff, the families.”

That fueled the next part of her career: being an academic at the U of M. There is no question she carries legendary status among researchers in her field. 

“She’s kind of the epitome of a nurse scientist who has just stayed true to her passion of improving care in nursing homes,” says Amy Vogelsmeier, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, an associate professor at the Sinclair School of Nursing who began working with Rantz as a master’s student in the 1990s. 

Claudia J. Beverly, Ph.D., RN, a nurse researcher at the University of Arkansas agrees: “She has a fantastic vision for what the health of older adults, quality of care and quality of life, should be,” Beverly says. 

A mother of two and grandmother of six, Rantz loves quilting and attending Mizzou sporting events with her husband Wally. She’s happy to continue mining the field of long-term care quality improvement. But she also wouldn’t mind passing the reins every now and then. 

“I’d just like to quilt a little bit more now,” she says. “That’s my new goal.”