A grant of more than 320-thousand dollars will help establish the Iowa Center for Applied Gerontology at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Julia Wallace, the Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, says it’s the study of aging, and Wallace points out Iowa has the highest percentage of people over 80 and their numbers will continue to increase, expanding the job market in health care and also leisure services for them. Part of the grant will fund “tele-training” to upgrade skills for family-services workers and other counselors. Wallace says since the market for careers in aging will escalate in the next few years, U-N-I wants to support students who’ll work in those careers. Some may work in fields like retail, community planning or even advertising, and while they’re not working with the sick or handicapped, dealing with elderly citizens will require some specialized knowledge.The undergrad focus is part of the grant, and another is helping businesses become “elder friendly.” The grant will also develop business outreach, to help chambers of commerce and business people aim their products and services at an aging market. Wallace says doing business with aging customers is not a matter of catering to the sick, handicapped or frail.Older adults have more trouble telling blues apart from greens, so advertisers might choose other colors, and forgo fast-scrolling text because it’s harder for them to read. While the focus of the grant will be increasing awareness of careers in aging, Wallace won’t assume most students intend to work in nursing homes.Many will find jobs in leisure services, and businesses that increasingly need human-resources departments aware of how to deal with aging employees. And Wallace hopes the gerontology center adds some awareness to a wide range of courses at U-N-I, to spread useful knowledge about the aging process to students heading into many academic career fields.
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