UI officials voice concerns over aging faculty population


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An increase in the number of University of Iowa faculty and staff nearing retirement means university officials have to figure out a way to support them.

Brian Kaskie, an associate professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy, presented the results of a retirement and aging population survey to members of the UI Faculty Senate on Tuesday.

“We sought to establish the case for addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by an aging workforce,” Kaskie told the Senate.

The results showed a much larger increase in age among educational institutions compared with other fields, and a desire from members of such institutions for more support as they near retirement and begin caring for older relatives. 

“Academic institutions are standing squarely at the front of the aging population boom,” he said.

The study predicts that faculty will work for more years than expected — some even longer than they wish, depending on their financial situation.

“In general, most employees here at Iowa plan to stay on at the university well past the traditional age of retirement of 65, with many planning on staying until the age of 70,” Kaskie said.

With an aging population, officials hope to create an environment friendly to all ages.

“We have so many faculty that have contributed so much,” said Associate Professor Erika Lawrence, the vice president of the Senate. “As they age, we really want to think about some of these policies and strategies we can implement that would allow them to continue to be vital contributors to the university.”

There are many options the UI can put into place.

“We can expand workplace wellness options through fitness and health, through accommodations and caregiver-support options,” Kaskie said.

The relatives of faculty and staff are also aging. Many UI employees are feeling a strain on their work as they try to balance taking care of a parent or spouse at the same time.

“The issue with parents and spouses is just booming,” Senate member and Professor Paul Muhly said. “Many of us have gone through that in one form or another, and it’s very difficult. I’m glad they are looking into it because we really need it.”

In fact, one in every six respondents were involved in a caregiving relationship — and one in every three were about to enter into one.

“I know I am someone who has concern about an aging parent,” Senate President and Professor Linda Snetselaar said. “It would be wonderful to have daycare for aging relatives here on campus. That’s important, because then you can really still focus on what you’re doing as a faculty member but still have the assurance that things are going well for someone you love.”

One of the next steps is to compare the policies of other universities that have successful programs.

“It’s wonderful that they are not only looking here but also looking across all these other institutions,” Muhly said. “Each one of our institutions can bring some wisdom to this problem.”

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