October 23-29 is Gerontological Nursing Week, a time to celebrate those among us who care for our senior citizens. As the world faces an aging population, it’s possible that in the coming decades, we may face a gerontological nursing shortage. People are living longer, leaving them to face the unique health challenges of their autumn years. Nurses who specialize in gerontological care will be increasingly in demand, and it’s important for the nursing community to foster strong educational initiatives for those who choose to focus on elder care.
The Population is Getting Older – Are Nurses Prepared?
The “Baby Boom” generation is one of the largest in history. Born between 1946 and 1964, this is the generation that fought in Vietnam, went to Woodstock, and shaped American history. This generation is massive, much larger than their successors, Gen X, or their predecessors, the “Greatest Generation.” As baby boomers continue to age, it creates unique challenges for the healthcare industry. The world is on the cusp of having one of the largest elderly populations in history. By 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be at least 83 million, more than double the number of senior citizens in 2012.
This ongoing growth of the population of people over 65 has led to concerns about a gerontological nursing shortage. As Baby Boomers continue to move into their late ‘60s and beyond, there will be an increased need for nurses and other healthcare providers who are prepared for the unique needs of geriatric patients. Not only are these nurses needed in primary care and acute care settings, but also in assisted living facilities and for in-home care. Senior citizens need the help of caring, compassionate, and experienced nurses. But today, few nurses have the right training.