Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Wayne State University School of Medicine, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara LeRoy, Ph.D., Director, Developmental Disabilities Institute, Wayne State University, B_Le_Roy@wayne.edu
Edward F. Ansello, Ph.D., Director, Virginia Center on Aging, Virginia Commonwealth University, email@example.com
The following blog post was written by the authors and originally posted in the Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.
The population of people over the age of 60 worldwide is forecast to reach 1.5 billion by 2050 (Global Health and Aging Report 2011). Similarly, the World Health Organization and the World Bank estimate that there are over one billion people with disabilities, variously defined, throughout the world. Additionally, many individuals with disabilities can now expect to live nearly as long as their peers without disabilities, increasing the diversity within aging populations. The greater longevity of these populations will present unprecedented opportunities and challenges for families, communities, businesses, governments, and, of course, higher education. Increases in populations of adults with lifelong disabilities, as well as the increased life expectancies of adults with late onset disabilities, will result in greater numbers of individuals with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mental health disorders, and have implications for family and community care providers. Consequently, this dual phenomenon of global aging and increased longevity for individuals with disabilities demands a significant emphasis on public health and education.
Recent changes in federal agencies and programs are bringing aging and disability sectors together. For example, Health and Human Services has combined the Office of Aging and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities into the Administration for Community Living. This new title also reinforces the national vision of individuals being able to live within the community with supports and services throughout their lifespan. Similarly, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare is funding demonstration projects to integrate disability and aging health and community services into managed care programs.
These population, policy, and practice changes will require new professionals who have been well trained in an interdisciplinary approach to service provision across aging and disability populations to meet the care giving needs. This offers an opportunity for AGHE to take the lead in developing thoughtful curriculum responses to these opportunities. Core values to be transmitted to these professionals through a new aging and disabilities curriculum should include appreciation of heterogeneity; health and well-being; community inclusion and participation; choice and self-directed long term supports and services; income security; and sustained relationships. Related to these values, training should focus on the providers and societies to meet the needs of populations aging with and aging into disability; preventing and managing
age- and disability associated secondary conditions and chronic diseases; designing sustainable policies to support healthy aging and community-living as well as long-term and palliative care; identifying strategies to address the strains on pension and social security systems; preparing age- and disability-friendly services and settings, and fostering meaningful relationships within extended communities.