College of Allied Health Sciences to enhance aging education

UC Collaboration for Innovation in Aging Education aims to improve education for those caring for older adults

Monday, Oct. 1, 2018 will mark the 28th observance of the United Nations (UN) International Day of Older Persons. The UN says by 2050, over 20 percent of the world’s population will be 60 or older and "with this in mind, enhanced attention to the particular needs and challenges faced by many older people is clearly required.”

In an effort to have a larger and better-trained health care workforce equipped to care for this population, the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS) is taking the lead in improving aging education.

Established in 2016, the James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education will lay the foundation for creating the UC Collaboration for Innovation in Aging Education. The initiative has a mission of improving the quality of life for older adults by enhancing interdisciplinary educational and research opportunities focused on caring for older adults for faculty, students and community members. Gruber is a lifelong social worker with expertise in caring for older adults.

"Having been in health care my entire professional life with a focus on geriatric clinical work, I came to the conclusion many years ago that we are not preparing our health care professionals adequately to work with elderly people,” says Gruber.

In May of 2018, faculty and staff from CAHS along with health care professionals and community stakeholders held a retreat at UC on the topic of aging education. Their goal was to create a stronger network to assess and address the current and future needs of health care professionals, to better understand and serve older adults and help determine a path for creating the collaboration on aging education.

One highlight from the retreat was the donation of $10,000 to The James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education from CareStar, a home care company founded by Tom Gruber, James’ cousin. Although Tom is retired from day to day operations of CareStar, he remains on the company's board of directors.

A few years ago, James Gruber approached Ruth Anne Van Loon, PhD, professor and director of the School of Social Work at CAHS, sharing with her his concerns about the challenges facing aging adults in Cincinnati and beyond.

"Many older adults feel as if they are no longer valued,” says Gruber. "Because of our extended families now, older adults may no longer have the support systems they had in years past. The collaboration will offer educational resources that go beyond late life, to include aging as a component of the expansive life cycle.”

Van Loon immediately saw the opportunity for the coordination of disciplines in the area of aging education by taking advantage of the size of an institution such as UC.

"More and more we are trying to position what we do in collaboration with other disciplines and common clinical training, so we can learn to work in a team and view the person as a whole,” says Van Loon. "This is especially significant in Ohio because of the large population of older people. Several health care professions did studies on this and recognized that they don’t have enough professionals committing to this vocation.”

As part of this collaboration, plans are for CAHS to offer a certificate in gerontology and to hold an annual symposium offering continuing education courses and educational opportunities for professionals in social work, allied health, nursing and medicine. Funding will support research specific to older adults. Gruber says preparing caregivers of all disciplines is a very important component of the overall initiative.

"I would like to see one day where we have aging education as part of the curriculum in our public school systems,” Gruber says. "Aging education should begin early on. I see this collaboration as the catalyst from which we will ultimately move in that direction.”

To make a tax-deductible donation to The James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education, click here or send a check made payable to the UC Foundation with the James Gruber Endowed Fund for Aging Education written in the memo line to University of Cincinnati Foundation, P.O. Box 19970, Cincinnati, OH 45219.

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