A workforce for an aging world

The UWL Therapeutic Recreation Program received Program of Merit for Health Professions designation from The Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

The UWL Therapeutic Recreation Program received Program of Merit for Health Professions designation from The Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

UWL’s Therapeutic Rec program gets national stamp of approval for integrating geriatrics, gerontology into curriculum

By the end of 2019, for the first time in human history, more people will be over the age of 65 than under the age of five, according to the US Census Bureau. A growing population of older adults worldwide brings with it many questions including how to meet future healthcare needs of an aging population.

UW-La Crosse is doing its part to make sure the future workforce is well prepared for a growing population of older adults. The university once again has been named a national leader in its work to meet the needs of an aging population.

The UW-La Crosse Therapeutic Recreation Program received Program of Merit for Health Professions designation from The Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education. UWL’s program is the first ever Health Professions program to receive this stamp of excellence. The recent honor builds on a previous track record at UWL of work that responds to the interests, needs and opportunities for the growing, aging population. In 2018, UWL was the first university in Wisconsin to be designated as an Age-Friendly University, an international effort led by Dublin City University to highlight the role higher education can play in responding to the challenges and opportunities associated with an aging population.

UWL’s program earned the Program of Merit designation by integrating gerontology and geriatrics competencies into its Therapeutic Recreation Program curriculum, based on standards and guidelines from the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

The designation came after a review and vote from the national Program of Merit for Health Professions Review Team.

Nancy Richeson, UWL associate professor of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation, was part of a national Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education task force, along with Marilyn Gugliucci, chair of the AGHE Program of Merit for Health Professions, that developed a set of standards and guidelines specifically for gerontology and geriatric curriculum for health professions programs. She then worked with Gugliucci to apply to be one of the first university programs nationwide to be reviewed based on those guidelines to become a Program of Merit. Additionally, UWL TR Program was awarded financial support through an AGHE Grant from the Retirement Research Foundation to launch the AGHE Program of Merit for Health Professions – 10 institutions that integrate geriatrics/gerontology competencies in one of their health professions program was eligible to apply for the Retirement Research Foundation funding through AGHE.

UWL was the first to be awarded the funding and the first to successfully complete the POM review.

“UWL was well positioned to be considered for this important review. Dr. Richeson contributed greatly to building the AGHE standards and guidelines established for health professions programs,” says Dr. Gugliucci. She is clearly progressive in the field of aging and a leader in the field of Therapeutic Recreation.”

The work of integrating the competencies took time and effort, notes Richeson. Over a couple years, the UWL department reviewed the gerontology and geriatric competencies and developed ways to integrate them into the program’s existing coursework.

“Truly, this is a testament to the student-centered, action-oriented, and professionally committed folks who deliver an amazing Therapeutic Recreation program every day,” says Laurie Harmon, chair of UWL’s Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation Department.

UWL’s program will be recognized on the AGHE Website and a certificate will be presented at the AGHE Annual Business Meeting in Austin, Texas in November 2019.

UWL’s new gerontology emphasis, open to all majors, is another way UWL is preparing future workers for an aging population. Student numbers in the program were reported as part of the review for the Program of Merit designation.

About the Program of Merit

The Program of Merit is a voluntary program of evaluation for AGHE member and nonmember institutions that offer either gerontology programs (degree and non-degree granting) and/or health professions programs whose curricula integrates gerontology/geriatrics content. The Program of Merit designation gives gerontology and health professions programs an AGHE “stamp of excellence” that they can use to verify program quality, lobby within their institutions for additional resources to maintain program quality, market the program, and recruit prospective students.