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Wednesday, 20 Sep 2017

James Appleby's Articles

James Appleby: Gerontology Experience Required

James Appleby

Every April, GSA and its educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), sponsor Careers in Aging Week. This year, dozens of colleges and universities across the country are participating by sponsoring events at their schools or in their communities. The activities are designed to bring greater awareness of the many job opportunities that gerontology offers.

When thinking about the promotion of careers in aging, it’s important to envision as wide a range of jobs as possible. We already recognize the need for more researchers, caregivers, social workers, and policy experts who work to address the needs of our aging population. Yet there are numerous other businesses and professional fields that need to prepare for the fact that the number of Americans age 65 and over will double in the next 40 years.

At AGHE’s recent annual meeting in Reno, I had a terrific conversation with Diane Patterson, co-founder of the Let’s Group. She and her organization, based in southern California, focus on finding work for experts on aging. Their philosophy is that every company in America needs a gerontologist on staff or on retainer. This intriguing concept is one that could allow us to expand the scope of our own Society.

The aforementioned growth of this country’s older population is reason enough to understand why widespread placement of gerontologists makes economic sense. Companies must be aware of the needs of the senior demographic — a group that also has a great deal of spending power. This knowledge was the impetus for GSA’s first Aging Means Business forum, which took place during last November’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Atlanta. This event brought leading authorities on gerontology and consumer behavior together with industry leaders interested in understanding and capitalizing on an expanding senior market. AGHE’s Task Force on Business and Aging also contributed to the Atlanta meeting program with a symposium titled, “The Intersection of Business & Aging: The Role of Gerontological Education in Business Schools.”

Companies looking to maximize their productivity additionally will require guidance on how to accommodate the needs of the modern workforce. According to the 2009 “Caregiving in the U.S.” report issued by the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are at least 43.5 million adults in this country who provide unpaid care to a family member or friend who is age 50 or older. Among these caregivers, 64 percent have had to make workplace accommodations — such as taking time off or altering arrival and departure schedules — as a result. Career adjustments are also common for those whose loved ones are in the hands of paid caregivers.

Fully expanding the private sector’s awareness of our new aging society will require a lot of effort. Plans are already underway for another Aging Means Business forum at this year’s GSA meeting in New Orleans. I also welcome feedback on ways that the Society can further support Careers in Aging Week activities at your institution. If we are successful, April soon could become known as Careers in Aging Month. Imagine how rewarding it will be to browse job listings and commonly see the phrase, “gerontology experience required.”

 

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