Gerontological nurses in Austin, Texas are assuming significant leadership roles in developing centers of learning devoted to health promotion and wellness in aging. Nursing faculty whose expertise are in gerontological education, practice, and research are active and key participants in the creation and development of the mission of the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. The Institute was established in February 1999 to formalize the interdisciplinary initiative of faculty from eight UT schools and colleges whose scholarly and teaching interests focus on aspects of aging. Scholars from Nursing, Social Work, the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs, Pharmacy, Education, Kinesiology, and Business Administration collaborate to promote research, education, and service in gerontology.
CERTIFICATE IN GERONTOLOGY
A doctoral portfolio has been developed which offers a Certificate of Gerontology to graduate students completing specific course work in the field of aging. Areas of study include:
* Health and physical function.
* Psychological well-being.
* Health services and economics.
* Social issues.
Portfolio requirements include a one-page essay describing the importance of the work in gerontology to the student's doctoral program and career goals, completion of four courses from a list of approved graduate-level gerontology courses with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or higher, attendance at the Seminar in Gerontology which meets four times per year, and completion of a scholarly report. The seminars also are open to the public. In the past 2 years, distinguished speakers included Dr. Arlan Richardson, President of the Gerontological Society of America and Director of the Aging Research and Education Center at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas; Dr. David Warner, Professor of Public Affairs at UT Austin; Dr. Fernando Torres-Gil, Director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Dr. Anita Woods, Associate Director of the Huffington Center on Aging at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
Through public education and outreach, The Institute of Gerontology has established a World Wide Web directory of Internet sites which provides useful information for older adults m Austin and central Texas and which also serves as a resource for professionals. Student internships at the Clinical Research Laboratory in Gerontology are based in the Austin Groups for the Elderly (AGE) building, which consolidates many programs for older adults in one location, near the UT campus. The Laboratory will be the primary site for the development of applied research opportunities for faculty, problem solving and other brainstorming opportunities among academic professors and clinicians on meaningful problems, as well as hands-on learning experiences and participation for students. Areas of common concern include the value of conducting clinical research and interdisciplinary approaches to gerontological mental health care. Plans are being made for student interns to work with older adults on issues such as Alzheimer's dementia, bereavement, depression, and medication use. Students also are involved with prevention and wellness and with ways to celebrate the rewards of aging.
The Institute is undertaking a "community assets inventory" designed to identify and tap the talents and resources of older adults in Austin. Concurrently, the Institute is launching a project entitled, Optimizing Memory and Cognitive Function in Older Adults. Designed as a research study on memory linked to a community service initiative, this project will provide health risk appraisals and a memory education course for 1 hour each week for 8 weeks under the supervision of an advanced practice nurse. Pretest and posttest scores of both control and experimental groups will be compared.
While major projects are being conducted in certain sections of the AGE building, students are busy learning from other areas:
* Elderhaven Adult Day Care program was concerned about the nutritional value of its meals. Students evaluated the meal program for cost effectiveness and recommended contract changes that saved the program 30% in annual expenditures.
* Respite Care is an in-home respite service for patients with Alzheimer's disease where students assist with client assessments, home visits, activity coordination, information, and referrals.
* The Guardianship/Money Management Program works to protect older adults from abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. The program recruits and trains volunteer advocates to serve as guardian agents, money managers, or representative payees for incapacitated adults. Students make home visits for monitoring purposes, gather information required by courts, and help coordinate services. They also assist with preparations for meetings of the Guardianship and Ethics Committees. These committees are formed when it is necessary to review a case, typically to discuss client competence and capacity for decision-making.
* Aging-In-Place provides holistic home care services. Students acquire skills regarding intake assessment, home visits, and case conferences to plan how best to meet the day-to-day needs of elderly individuals.
* The Alzheimer's Association provides caregiver support, information, and education classes. Students collect and analyze data, conduct training, and coordinate inservice training for Helpline volunteers. A research question which is being considered is, "Where do gaps or barrier currently exist in our community for Alzheimer's patients and their families?".
* Senior Net is a program funded by the IBM Corporation and Southwestern Bell to encourage older adults to take advantage of computers for interaction, exploration, and information gathering.
Thus, with the establishment of an interdisciplinary institute in gerontology within the University, gerontological nurses and nursing students practice, study, and debate alongside students from other disciplines. Their mission is health promotion and to further society's understanding of the factors thai lead to dynamic aging, to improve the quality of life for older adults, and to prevent or postpone disability. Through educational outreach and service to the community, we can improve the education of present and future professionals preparing to work in the field of aging.
For more information, contact The Institute of Gerontology, The University of Texas at Austin, 405 West 25th Street, Suite 407, Walter Webb Hall, Room 407, A4200, Austin, TX 78705, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or access the World Wide Web site at http://www.edb.utexas.edu/ gerontology/index, htm.