Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, with an increasing older population. “By some estimates, over 20% of our population will be age 65 or older by 2020 while the younger population in our society is decreasing,” said Kathryn Daniel, RN, PhD, ANP-BC, GNP-BC, assistant professor and director, adult nurse practitioner/gerontological nurse practitioner program at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Ultimately, there will be a proportionately older population — with potentially more chronic illnesses — and fewer younger people to care for the older residents in the near future, Daniel said.
“Ensuring [the elderly] can function optimally in their homes and community are shared goals for the elderly and their family members,” said UT Arlingtons College of Nursing Dean Elizabeth Poster, RN, PhD, FAAN.
In a major boost to prepare for 2020, UT Arlington received a $1 million endowment to support a new chair of geriatric nursing research established through a generous gift by the Moritz family. The Moritz familys $500,000 commitment will enable UT Arlington to advance research in the critical field of elder care and will be matched dollar for dollar to create a $1 million nursing endowment, according to John David Moritz.
“This gift will help us attract the kind of prominent scholar who can help move our research agenda forward and inspire our students to see themselves as scientists and scholars for the future,” said Poster.
The gift will establish the first endowed faculty chair in the college of nursing, which has more than tripled its enrollment during the past three years to about 6,000 students.
“The nationally known researcher we hire will continue to contribute to our knowledge of best practices in the care of the elderly,” Poster said.
Part of the universitys dedication to the geriatric population is reflected in its “SmartCare” program, which is designed to help keep the geriatric population at home and safe, according to Daniel, who serves as the program director.
A collaborative project between the CON and the college of engineering, the SmartCare technologies will be nonintrusive, easy to use, reliable and low cost with the aim of reducing the cost of care while improving the independence, quality of life and health of the elderly and those with disabilities, according to Daniel.
“A national level research presence in geriatric nursing at UTA will benefit both SmartCare and our existing adult/geriatric NP program,” added Daniel. “An endowed chair in geriatric nursing can bring more visibility to this program so that more potential students are aware and consider adult/geriatric NP as an advanced practice degree option.”
While many doctoral and graduate nursing students are gravitating toward geriatrics research, Poster said faculty and students are particularly interested in advances that can improve the efficacy of caregivers, increase the quality of life for the aging population and enhance opportunities for independent living among the elderly.
“Students in our MSN Geriatric NP program, as well as our PhD and DNP programs, have focused on geriatric topics for their project or dissertation; however, the majority of these students have had a more generalist preparation with limited clinical content expertise in geriatrics,” Poster said. “The leadership of a chair in geriatric research could bridge this gap within our curriculum and enhance the preparation of these emerging nurse scientists.”