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Bracing for old age

BY MITCHELL SCHMIDT | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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It’s time to think about the baby boomers.

With the generation growing older, some UI officials say people need to be prepared to care for them.

By 2030, the number of Iowans over the age of 65 will increase by 55 percent to almost 700,000, according to the UI Center on Aging. In that year, one of every four citizens will be considered elderly, and by 2040, older Iowans will outnumber children and youth.

“Iowa is an aging state; we need to develop responses now,” said Brian Kaskie, a UI associate professor of health management and policy. “Doing nothing will not support the problem.”

Kaskie addressed many issues with geriatric care — providing health care to older adults — at the Oct. 29 state Board of Regents meeting.

At the meeting, Kaskie said the UI needs to increase education among students regarding geriatric care. By increasing geriatric curriculum, students’ education and awareness will increase, he said.

John Rachow, a UI clinical assistant professor in the geriatrics program, agreed students in various majors — from business to social services — could benefit from such a curriculum.

“Geriatric care is an important part of the broad education you would want,” Rachow said.

Mercedes Bern-Klug, a UI assistant professor of social work, addressed similar concerns in her “Older Adults at the End of Life: Considerations for Caregivers in the 21st Century” presentation Wednesday at the Iowa City Public Library.

In the three hour discussion, Bern-Klug, who has worked at the UI for five years, talked about the complexities of caring for older adults and how people have continued to live longer, leading to more of a demand for geriatric care. She said increased awareness of older adults’ needs will benefit all members of the community.

“Geriatric care goes beyond just health,” she said.

Rachow said the UI contributes to Iowa City’s older demographic.

A large portion of the young population moves away after graduating from the UI, while at the same time many older Iowa graduates are returning to the community, he said.

“It is a homecoming phenomena that happens late in life,” he added.

The Livable Community Initiative is one local group working to assist this growing older adult community.

Some of the organization’s main goals are providing transportation, friendly businesses, safety and employment for older adults, said Bob Welsh, a member and organizer for the group. This would in turn create an even more appealing community for all members, the retired reverend said.

“[Iowa City] should be the very best place to grow up and grow old,” he said.


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