Mar 06 2010

Assisted living assists whom?

Filed under AGHE conference 2010

Harvey L. Stearns, director and senior fellow of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology at the University of Akron, was part of a discussion of the Role of Higher Education in Health Care Reform at the annual meeting of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education March 4-7 in Reno.

As part of his remarks he shared this pithy observation from his father-in-law upon entering an assisted-living facility:

“I understand what assisted living is all about. I’m assiting these people to have a job.”

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Mar 06 2010

Gerontology director on health reform: Don’t wait for dust to settle

Filed under AGHE conference 2010

So we need more professionals with specialized training in the issues of older adulthood — how do we get them?

One of people offering suggestions at the national conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) was Suzanne R. Kunkel, director of the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio and a past president of AGHE. The conference held March 4-7 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno.

Kunkel suggested these steps for spreading the word about gerontology:

  • Embrace non-traditional models of education, including distance learning and experiential learning. Ohio, she said, is pioneering the concept of “stackable certificates.” Students earn credential for intermediate series of courses, which can be used to enter the job market at various points or combined into a traditional degree.
  • Develop and teach meaningful core competencies. “If we can’t tell employers what our … degrees mean, we have failed,” she said. “Gone are the days of knowledge just for knowledge’s sake.”
  • Increase visibility of gerontology. Work to have gerontology degrees and credentials made part of formal job requirements.

Kunkel said that with health-care reform on the verge of being passed now  is the time to be “bold.”

“We can’t wait for the dust to settle because if we do we’ll be buried under the dust.”

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Mar 06 2010

Video shows benefits of hiring older workers

Faced with research showing that 65 percent of businesses and organizations are reluctant to hire older workers, the Older Learner Center at Michigan’s Grand Rapids Community College produced a video explaining the benefits.

Watch (Windows Media Player) or Real Player.

Mike Faber, associate director of the Older Learner Center, mentioned the video during a session on Innovative Models for Re-training and Re-careering Older Workers at the annual conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE).

The conference was held March 4-7 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno.

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Mar 05 2010

Program address issues of ‘aging in place’ in prison

The U.S. population is graying everywhere, and that includes behind bars.

According to Mary T. Harrison, a psychologist at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, about 10 percent of inmates of state and federal prisons now are 50 or older.

The 50+ population has tripled since the early 1990s, she said, and as a result more inmates are dying in prison. There were 1,630 inmate deaths in 1991. Ten years later that number had almost doubled.

Harrison spoke at at the annual conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, held March 4-7 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno. She described a program for older prisoners that she launched at the correctional center in 2004. It’s called the Senior Structured Living Program or True Grit.

The program, which has grown to about 120 members, aims to provide older inmates with dignity and humane care, she said. It was begun in response to older inmates being exploited by younger inmates. Some of the older inmates, especially those in wheelchairs, were having to pay protection money to the younger inmates.

True Grit participants live in one unit of the prison. They participate in a wide variety of structured activities, including pet therapy, arts and crafts and drama productions. They also must do work such as cleaning.

True Grit operates at no cost to taxpayers, she said. It is run entirely by herself and volunteers from outside the prison. These include military veterans who meet with vets who are behind bars. About half of the participants in the program are military vets, she said.

She said the program benefits the prison system by reducing costs of medical care, including the provision of psychotropic drugs. She also said older inmates would often malinger in the infirmary to get out of their cells.

“Now we can’t even get them in [the infirmary],” she said.

She said the program also helps rehabilitate those prisoners who are eligible for eventual release, although about 70 percent of participants in True Grit are in prison for life.

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Mar 05 2010

Nursing students test their skills on Gerontology Education Island

On  Gerontology Education Island in the virtual world Second Life, Lesele Rose’s nursing students can do assessments of virtual patients (for a grade), see how homeless people live, and, as everywhere else in Second Life, fly.

Rose, an  instructor in the College of Nursing at the University of Utah, built the island to give students an interactive learning experience. She demonstrated its many capabilities at the annual conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, held March 4-7 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno.

The virtual examination rooms include beds and medical monitoring equipment. In the future, she said, there will be sinks where the students’ avatars will be required to wash their hands before examining a “patient.”

Such learning environments are common now in Second Life. She showed one facility constructed for medical examiners. She said she would consider taking her students on a field trip to the facility.

Among the other items of interest outside the main building on Gerontology Education Island is a small hobo homestead complete with a hammock and clothes line. On giant video screen inside the building, students can watch YouTube videos or take a look at any website.

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