The number of older adults in the United States will nearly double between 2005 and 2030, from 37 million to 70 million – accounting for 12% of the population today to almost 20% in 15 years. Older adults represent a disproportionate share of health care and social services. The 12% of older Americans today account for 26% of all physician office visits, 35% of all hospital stays, 34% of all prescriptions issued, 38% of all emergency medical responses, and 90% of all nursing home use.
As things currently stand, our nation is not prepared to meet the social and medical needs of this aging population. Bottom line, our work force is inadequately trained to care for older adults creating a work force shortage that will threaten the quality of care available to older adults. Additionally, our aging population will be a much more diverse group of individuals requiring a complex array of care and management. There will be more individuals who are fit and functional well into their 80s as well as more individuals living into their late 90s and even into their 100s.
Not only is there a need to increase the geriatric competence of our work force, there is a need to generate more interest in working with older adult as the number of geriatric specialists is declining. We also must expand our view of the “work force” focusing not only on paid professionals but on informal caregivers and older adults themselves. More than 90% of older Americans who receive care at home rely in part on informal caregivers and over 80% rely solely on family and friends. We need to recognize caregivers as integral members of the health care team and provide them with the information and support they need to take care of their loved ones. At the same time, we need to arm older adults with the knowledge to age successfully so they can stay engaged with life both physically and mentally.
With all this in mind, the educational goals of the Center for Aging and Translational Research include:
- Generating interest in working with older adults
- Increasing the geriatric competence of the workforce and informal caregivers through educational programs that link research to practice
- Providing education to older adults that promotes successful aging