older couple dancing

We’re not getting any younger, so let’s plan for it!
School of Nursing experts join team of geriatric specialists in age-friendly initiative

The good news: Americans are living longer. The most recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says U.S. life expectancy is 78.7 years, an increase of one month from former data.

The challenging news: The rapid increase in the older-adult population places unprecedented demands on our health care system and aging-related services. By 2030, the number of U.S. adults aged 65 or older will more than double to 71 million.

UC Davis Health will be ready to help older adults achieve their health and wellness goals, thanks to a new Aging Initiative. The vision is to create the healthiest and highest-functioning older adult population in Northern California due to the care, research and innovation at UC Davis Health.

A culture shift

“This is a culture shift and a move- ment that reshapes how UC Davis Health serves older adults and their family caregivers in an age-friendly way across the entire enterprise,” said Allison Brashear, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine and co-leader of the initiative.

UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky tapped Brashear and Stephen Cavanagh, dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, to lead the initiative. While this is a new approach, caring for older adults is not new to the health system. The UC Davis Medical Center is nationally ranked for its inpatient geriatrics care outcomes. The Alzheimer’s Disease Center is internationally recognized for its cognitive research. The Family Caregiving Institute at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis leads international discussions on research and workforce education to strengthen clinical skills and support family caregivers of older adults.

“We are building on a solid foundation of excellent work already taking place here and moving it forward from the older-adult perspective,” Cavanagh says. “By putting the older person and their family at the center of our programs, and building out from there, we will be sure that care is tailored to address what is most important to each person.”

New older-adult clinic

In development is a new older-adult outpatient clinic in midtown Sacramento, California. From geriatricians and geriatric nurse practitioners to pharmacists and physical therapists, providers will reside in one location to deliver all the services needed to support older adult patients and their caregivers.

“It is impossible for us as a nation to buy the care that the aging Baby Boomer population requires,” says Terri Harvath, who serves as senior director of Strategic Initiatives for the school and director of the caregiving institute. “A linchpin to our health care system has always been our family caregivers. We have not always given them the attention they need. Now, more than ever, we need to include the caregiver as a member of the interprofessional team and to ensure they receive some of our interventions.”

Initiative leaders are hiring a team of geriatrics-focused health care experts throughout the health system to also increase education opportunities for School of Nursing and medicine students.

“This initiative will have waves and ripples, right through all aspects of the health care system,” Cavanagh says.