Ten Years After ‘Retooling’ Report, Workforce Demands Remain High

Our field is in the midst of observing the 10th anniversary of the landmark “Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce” report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.” This publication, led by former GSA President John W. Rowe, pointed out that the number of older patients with more complex health needs increasingly outpaces the number of health care providers with the knowledge and skills to adequately care for them.

The challenge with all National Academies reports like this is determining how best to translate their findings into action. In 2008, GSA joined with other stakeholder groups to establish the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA). Since that time, former GSA President Michèle J. Saunders has been serving as co-convener of the EWA along with Nancy Lundebjerg of the American Geriatrics Society. The Alliance now boasts 31 member organizations. We’re grateful to the John A. Hartford Foundation for providing ongoing support for the work of the EWA.

In this anniversary year there will be a lot of activity highlighting the work of the EWA. There will be weekly blogs, coalition building activities, social media thunderclaps, Capitol Hill briefings, testimony, and lobbying days. During Older Americans Month in May, the EWA will focus on geriatric training and advocacy for the federal government’s Geriatrics Workforce Education Program. And the new EWA campaign, #TogetherWeCare, will share models for current and future workforce needs in areas such as dementia care, family caregiving, cultural competency, and more.
But the sobering fact is that 10 years on, the need for these kinds of activities is even greater than it was in 2008. EWA’s members are committed to tackling our workforce challenges from many angles and GSA is pleased to play an active role. Solving problems is what we do. I’m particularly excited about our work on the Reframing Aging Initiative, which is sponsored by eight organizations in the aging field, including GSA, with the support of nine philanthropic funders. Based on research conducted by the FrameWorks Institute, we have developed and tested strategies and tools for changing the narrative around aging that address ageism and garner increased support for aging issues. Just as the solutions to workforce challenges require a long-term effort, so will the solutions around reframing. But, if successful, we will begin to see increased interest in careers in aging.

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