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UCLA Freshmen Learn About Growing Old

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
03/03/16  12:26 PM PST
Learning about aging

These students will be learning about the aging process

By Anna Gorman for California Healthline

April Pearce is in the middle of her freshman year at UCLA, settling into life away from home for the first time. But instead of thinking about dorm food or exams, the 19-year-old is focused on something a little more abstract: old age.

That’s because of a unique course Pearce is taking called Frontiers in Human Aging, designed to teach first-year college students what it means to get old — physically, emotionally and financially.

Pearce said that before, she barely noticed elderly people when she passed them on the street. Since being in the aging class, seeing them fills her mind with questions: Do they live alone? Will they develop dementia? Do they interact with anyone apart from relatives?

“It’s weird, I know,” she said. “But before, I didn’t have any knowledge really about aging. I didn’t even interact with any older people except for my grandmother. Now I’m learning so much.”

In addition to teaching students about aging, the professors have another goal in mind: inspiring them to pursue careers working with the elderly.

With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, there is a growing need, said Rita Effros, a professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine who teaches both undergraduates and medical students.

People over 65 represented about 14 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, and that figure is expected to increase to nearly 22 percent by 2040. During that same time period, the number of people over 85 is expected to triple.

And jobs working with the elderly won’t just be in medicine but also in social work, psychiatry, technology and law, Effros said.

“We try to make it clear that aging is going to be big business,” she said. “Whatever their interests are, they should think about serving the elderly.” The strategy seems to be working on many of the students, including Pearce. She started UCLA in the fall wanting to be a veterinarian and now is thinking about becoming a geriatrician.

Read the Full Article at California Healthline

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