Judy Howe and Bob Maiden both stumbled into their careers, but are now committed to making students aware of joys of working with the elderly.
We have both dedicated our careers to working with older adults. Now that we are in our sixties, we hope that younger people will be drawn to us. However, that doesn't seem to be happening at this point -- why aren't young people selecting careers in aging? Being a gerontologist or geriatrician is a rewarding career, with complexities, challenges, and opportunities given the aging of our cohort, the Boomers. Gerontologists study and teach about the aging process and the issues related to aging, whereas geriatricians practice a specialized field of medicine and provide clinical care to older adults. Gerontologists work in a wide variety of occupations from social workers to certified nurses aides, from directors of area agencies on aging to in-home health aides, from certified planners to financial planners, from biologists to thanatologists and so on. But younger people are not choosing gerontology or geriatrics as a career in part because it is an unknown profession to most students. Those who have been working in the field of gerontology and geriatrics have been struggling for years about the flat rate of recruitment into the field.
The 2008 Institute of Medicine report, "Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce," underscores that our current health care system is ill-equipped to deal with this pending crisis. The report lays out the demographics, health status, and long-term needs of this population, and the challenges in caring for the aging population. It recommends that all health care professionals be trained to care for older adults and that there needs to be increased recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists in all fields of practice. There have also been several bills before Congress to provide incentives for individuals working with older adults, including the Caring for an Aging America Act co-sponsored by Senators Boxer, Kohl, Collins, and Sanders. This bill provides loan forgiveness for health professionals who pursue geriatrics and gerontology training into law.