The number of Americans age 65 and older will double from 35 million in 2000 to 70 million by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the number of people age 85 and older is expected to increase from 4.2 million to almost 9.6 million. These statistics translate into some great career opportunities in eldercare (which is the fastest-growing employment sector in the health care industry). Geriatric physicians, nurses, and physician assistants will be in strong demand, as will physical therapists, recreational therapists, and diagnostic imaging specialists. Demand will also grow for home health care aides and geriatric psychiatrists and psychologists (as more people live longer and face depression as a result of health challenges and/or the loss of spouses and other loved ones).
You don’t have to pursue a career in health care to work with the elderly. Many other industries provide services and support to senior citizens. These include elder law, financial planning, fitness, travel (specialized tours for senior citizens), publishing, entrepreneurism (starting businesses that provide products and services for the elderly), and even architecture (designing state-of-the-art retirement communities, health care facilities, and nursing homes, as well as helping senior citizens redesign their homes for better accessibility).
Skills for success in geriatrics and aging careers vary by profession. “To be a successful gerontological nurse, you need a passion for the care of older adults, an understanding that it is a specialty, and a respect for the continued contributions of people as they age,” advised Mary Rita Hurley, past-president of the National Gerontological Nursing Association, in an interview with me about careers in aging. Dr. Benjamin Liptzin, the former chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, believes that to be an effective geriatric psychiatrist, “you must be comfortable with people, listening to them, and have compassion for them. In order to get to this point you need an aptitude for science to get into and finish medical school. As a geriatric psychiatrist, it is important to understand the brain and other medical conditions, and all the effects of medication that older people take.” You can read interviews with Mary Rita Hurley, Dr. Liptzin, and other professionals in aging and geriatrics in our annual careers in aging and geriatrics issue of the CAM Report, our career newsletter for high school and college students, career counselors, and librarians. Click here to read a sample copy and to learn more about subscribing or to purchase a copy of the careers in aging issue.
Many positions in geriatrics and aging (such as health care workers) are available throughout the United States, but certain regions (such as the Southwest and Southeast) have higher senior-citizen populations—which translates into more job openings. Geriatric/aging associations and organizations such as AARP (www.aarp.org) can provide more information on top retirement areas in the United States.
Contact the following organizations for useful information on education and careers in geriatrics and aging:
Administration for Community Living: www.acl.gov
American Geriatrics Society: www.americangeriatrics.org
American Medical Association: www.ama-assn.org
American Society of Consultant Pharmacists: http://ascp.com
American Society on Aging: www.asaging.org
Association for Gerontology in Higher Education: www.aghe.org
Careers in Aging: Consider the Opportunities: www.aghe.org/resources/careers-in-aging (check out “Resources”)
Exploring Careers in Aging: http://businessandaging.blogs.com
Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association: www.gapna.org
Gerontological Society of America: www.geron.org
John A. Hartford Foundation Institute for Geriatric Nursing: www.hartfordign.org
National Adult Day Services Association: www.nadsa.org
National Association for Home Care and Hospice: www.nahc.org
National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: www.nhpco.org
Are there any specific careers in aging and geriatrics that you think I should spotlight in future blog entries?
Copyright Andrew Morkes & College & Career Press (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)