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Cultivating a culture of caring for older adults

Dr. Lisa Gibbs with patient
Dr. Lisa Gibbs, the principal investigator for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP), works to help meet the unique needs of a growing elder population.

The Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program launched to meet the needs of a burgeoning elder population.

Older patients, caregivers and families need access to competent and compassionate care. Consider these facts on aging in Orange County alone:

  • One in four people in Orange County will be 65 or older by 2040.
  • In 2015, there were 41 board-certified geriatricians in Orange County. The estimated number needed to care for the current older adult population is 177. Orange County faces a critical shortage of board-certified geriatricians, with only 41 practicing in the local area.
  • In 2015, an estimated 9.4 percent of Orange County seniors were living in poverty. As of 2015, the poverty rate has doubled to nearly 40,000 from 2005 figures. A senior is considered in poverty if his or her annual income falls under $11,367 (living alone) or $14,342 (for two people).

To meet the care needs of an expanding elderly population, the UC Irvine School of Medicine collaborated with the UCI School of Nursing and other community partners to develop the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP), which is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.

Culture of caring focuses on these four areas:

  • Empowering primary care delivery systems to care for older adults
  • Providing skills and knowledge to front-line health workers
  • Providing patients, families and caregivers with the knowledge and skills to improve health outcomes and the quality of care for older adults
  • Including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) education and training in curriculum for multiple groups of learners

It is our hope that this program can serve as a model for cultivating a culture of caring for older adults that geriatric workforces around the U.S. can borrow.