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UArizona Health Sciences Program prepares older, younger students for healthy aging

U of A Health Sciences Program prepares older, younger students for healthy aging
Posted at 7:05 AM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-22 16:33:16-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — U.S. Census data shows that by 2034, Americans age 65 and older will for the first time outnumber those under 18. The University of Arizona Health Sciences just launched a graduate program to learn more about this growing demographic.

Eileen lawless is an older adult with 23 years of experience in nursing homes, hospice, and assisted living.

“We use the term old or aging, we immediately start thinking about frail, dependent,” Lawless said.

But when she started looking for a new job, recruiters told her to hide her age.

“That was a shock, that’s when it hit me that I may not be hirable because of my age,” Lawless said.

In the last decade, Arizona saw a 52% increase in its older population. Lawless says with this shifting demographic, there’s a need for new perspective on the aging process.

“Our aging process shouldn’t stop us, it should allow us to embellish on who we are and what we do,” Lawless said.

That’s the goal of a new graduate certificate program at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. It’s called Innovations in Aging. Lawless is part of the first group of students who signed up, hoping to get a better direction for her future.

"I’m not sure, but I think this program will help me decide,” Lawless said.

The online classes are open to anyone.

“There are students form all backgrounds, all areas, it’s very interdisciplinary,” said Samantha Werts, student.

The program is focused on the social, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. Students learn about the aging experience and how to live better lives as they age.

“I think it’s important, especially being a younger adult, to understand the needs of different generations,” Werts said.

Both younger and older students are looking into careers in healthy aging.

"When we for example are thinking about retirement or thinking about the future," Lawless said. "We don’t have to stop. We can regroup, reframe, we can bear down.”