Summer 2022 Newsletter
By Denise Demers, PhD, CHES and Darshon Reed, PhD
University of Central Arkansas
Department of Health Sciences and Department of Psychology
With the recent exponential growth of the aging population (from 13.1% in 2010 to 16.9% in 2020) and the projected growth by 2050 reaching 22% of the total population in the nation (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018), focus on the aging population has become paramount. Adults over the age of 65 will likely reach and affect every aspect of our society in the coming months and years. Not only will it be imperative to have resources available to assist them, but also healthcare workers to provide such care. Strategies to improve this population’s health and quality of life are both varied and multiplicitous, ranging from community programs such as “Meals on Wheels” to local recreation center physical activity programs. From Geriatrics to Gerontology, systems and structures are being developed and put in place in order to adequately provide for the aging population. Now is the time to prepare the coming health care force to administer such programs and strategies.
To adequately prepare the rising generation of healthcare professionals, it takes a multidisciplinary approach. Not only are doctors and nurses needed, but community healthcare providers such as psychologists, health education specialists, and volunteer organizations. For decades, universities and colleges throughout the nation have begun to teach using a more experiential approach to their curriculum. Included in that curriculum are simulation labs (Coyne et al., 2021) and service learning (Furco, 1996) . Service learning has exploded in recent years, becoming the go-to teaching strategy for many higher education classrooms, whether in-person or virtually.
Recently at the University of Central Arkansas, one of the psychology courses focused on healthy aging. Everything within that class was seen through the lens of the aging population – each chapter from the text, additional articles, and blogs from the American Psychological Association Aging resources. Additionally, students spent time at two local senior care facilities interacting with the residents. During their time at the facilities, students played games, visited, and colored Easter eggs with the residents.
From this experience, over 90% of the students agreed or strongly agreed that their time at the Senior Center was a valuable experience for them. It not only helped them better connect with the content of what they were learning in class, but also helped them both increase in understanding of the problems and challenges of those residents in the facility, as well as how their work can make a difference in the world.
In order to meet the needs of the aging population, programs throughout the country need to focus on aging (Grady, 2011). Whether it be in research (Croff et al., 2020) or applying theory to application through experiential learning (Efthymiou et al., 2021; Kim et al., 2021; Niman & Chagnon, 2021) or virtual simulations (Coyne et al., 2021), such experiences like this are needed in our college classrooms and courses. To prepare the coming generation for “the impending crisis, which has been foreseen for decades, is now upon us” (Institute of Medicine, 2008), courses for the future healthcare professionals in all disciplines need to provide adequate content related to the aging population. Likewise, faculty must also prepare themselves by using multidisciplinary and interprofessional programs that give students the benefits of experiential opportunities with the aging population.
Coyne, E., Calleja, P., Forster, E., Lin, F. (2021). A review of virtual-simulation for assessing healthcare students’ clinical competency, Nurse Education Today, Jan;96:104623. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2020.104623. Epub 2020 Oct 10. PMID: 33125979.
Croff, R., Tang, W., Friedman, D. B., Balbim, G. M., Belza, B. (2022). Training the next generation of aging and cognitive health researchers, Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, 43:2, 185-201, DOI: 10.1080/02701960.2020.1824912
Efthymiou,L., Ktoridou, D. Epaminonda,E. (2021) A model for experiential learning by replicating a workplace environment in virtual classes, IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), pp. 1749-1753, doi: 10.1109/EDUCON46332.2021.9453966.
Furco, A. (1996). Service-Learning: A balanced approach to experiential education. Expanding Boundaries: Service and Learning 1 (1):2–6.
Grady PA. (2011). Advancing the health of our aging population: A lead role for nursing science. Nurs Outlook. Jul-Aug;59(4):207-9. doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2011.05.017. PMID: 21757076; PMCID: PMC3197709.
Kim, M. J., Kang, H. S., De Gagne, J. C. (2021). Nursing students’ perceptions and experiences of using virtual simulation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 60, 11-17.
Niman, N. B., & Chagnon, J. R. (2021). Redesigning the Future of Experiential Learning. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, 21(8). https://doi.org/10.33423/jhetp.v21i8.4507
U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, Estimates of the population of the United States by single years of age, color, and sex: 1900 to 1959 (Series P-25, No. 311); Estimates of the population of the United States, by age, sex, and race: April 1, 1960, to July 1, 1973 (Series P-25, No. 519); Preliminary estimates of the population of the United States by age, sex, and race: 1970 to 1981 (Series P-25, No. 917); and Intercensal estimates for 1980–1989, 1990–1999, and 2000–2009. The data for 2010 to 2020 are based on the population estimates released for July 1, 2020. Data beyond 2020 are derived from the national population projections released in September 2018. Some estimates have been revised since previous publication in America’s Children.
Verkuyl, M., Oona St-Amant, O., Lynda Atack, L., Diane MacEachern, D., Amanda Laird, A., Paula Mastrilli, P., Germayne Flores, G., Harper Soul Hamilton Gunn, H. P. S. (2022). Virtual simulations’ impact on clinical practice: A qualitative study, Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 68, 19-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecns.2022.04.001.