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Regis College Targets Needs of Aging AmericaJuly 2, 2014
Universities are not producing enough specialists to meet the needs of an aging population. There aren’t enough gerontologists to run elder service organizations, to operate social and wellness programs, and to prevent or treat health issues related to falling, increased isolation, and climate change. This, according to Michael Anft in The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 9, 2014, A 10),
“The data in Anft’s article are significant, if not staggering,” said Regis College president Antoinette Hays, PhD, RN, whose doctorate from Brandeis focused on health policy and aging.
She continued: “Thirteen per cent of Americans were 65 and older in 2010, and 20% will be in 2050. Yet there has been an 11 % drop in the number of gerontology degree programs between 2000 and 2010. Higher education cannot and must not ignore this need, and, indeed, Regis College has not.”
Besides offering a specialty in gerontology through its graduate nursing program, the College is offering a four-course graduate certificate for students with a background in any field to prepare them in a variety of ways to meet the needs of this special population. All students gain insight and real world experience with the final course, a 100-hour mentorship in the field of gerontology.
According to the US Census, the number of Americans over age 65 multiplied by a factor of 11 during the 20th century. They comprised one out of every eight Americans in 1994. The elderly population of the United States will more than double to 80 million between now and the year 2050. By that year, as many as 1 in 5 Americans could be elderly. Most of this growth should occur between 2010 and 2030, when the "baby boom" generation fully matures.
“This is the time to prepare the social infrastructures and healthcare personnel to meet this growth,” commented Dean Penelope Glynn, PhD, RN, of the Regis College School of Nursing, Science, and Health Professions. “What makes the Regis graduate certificate program in gerontology noteworthy are flexible and adult-friendly course options, primarily in a hybrid format (half online and half on campus), so that a currently engaged workforce can update and orient itself to these developments both quickly and with professional acumen,” she continued.
Associate Dean Claudia Pouravelis, EdD, noted that there are already multiple job openings in gerontology and not enough personnel to fill them.
“Just check out a website like http://www.simplyhired.com/k-center-for-gerontology-l-boston-ma-jobs.html regarding Greater Boston alone,” she said, “and you’ll find multiple listings for occupations specifically in gerontology, such as nurse practitioners, research assistants, social workers, resident service coordinators, mental health counselors, RNs, ASNs, and LPNs, health administrators, social service directors.”
Students will have the option of taking up to 2 courses prior to applying to the Certificate program. The GRE is also waived with a grade of B or better in the first 2 courses.
On schedule for this autumn are courses such as HP-626-01, “Social, Political, and Economic Perspectives in Gerontology,” which will be offered monthly from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on four Saturdays (9/20,10/25,11/22,12/6) and explore the factors that impact the aging experience of housing, healthcare, employment and public policy.
Offered on four alternate Saturdays this fall (9/6,10/4,10/18,11/15), HP-629-01, “ Chronic Illness & Aging,” takes a multidisciplinary perspective regarding the management of chronic disease, palliative care and end of life decisions. Although aging is not synonymous with decline, the aging process does increase the risk of the development of chronic disease, and this will be considered in the context of the individual, family, community and the larger social systems.
Regis also offers a stand-alone required geriatrics course in both the undergraduate and graduate nursing program and boasts boasts a growing nurse practitioner track in gerontology/geriatrics. Doctoral students can also concentrate on gerontology as well.
“So many baby boomers are themselves now the sandwich generation taking care of elderly parents on one side and raising college children on the other,” President Hays observed. “Our programs at Regis invite the health and wellbeing workforce in Greater Boston to get trained and targeted to create and staff the infrastructures that aging Americans need to continue making life worth living,” she continued. “After all, this demographic trend is not going to stop but will continue to rise into the next century.” Anft’s blockbuster article in The Chronicle is on target in identifying the severity of the problem, but Regis, for one, is on track in addressing it.