More than a million jobs will be required in the next decade to accommodate the 76 million baby boomers in America who will likely come to rely on the senior living industry. And a number of universities, both public and private, are developing programs and degrees to train students in improving the specialized needs of people 55 years and older. 

These programs, many of which feature online coursework, have committed to expanding the research on aging and developing partnerships with organizations that understand industry trends and can help develop professional skills for students.

“Senior Living companies will have to maintain a meaningful focus on attracting, engaging, developing, and retaining key talent,” said Cindy Baier, the CEO of Brookdale Senior Living in an interview with Senior Housing News.

Master of Arts in Senior Living Hospitality, University of Southern California

The Master of Arts in Senior Living Hospitality, offered by USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, just launched in August 2019. The program focuses on training executives and managers in an industry increasingly focused on senior needs.

Courses include Introduction to Aging, Emotion-Cognition Interactions and Aging, Current Issues in Aging Services, and the Aging Family.

Part of the objectives for students, as an employee of a senior living organization, is to fully understand the aspects of aging, age-related diseases, and the layers of dynamics between families. “It also provides unique training in the fields of hospitality and the management of residential facilities that are not currently part of gerontology degree programs,” said Dr. Pinchas Cohen, dean of the Davis School. 

The degree requires 31 core units and 12 elective units, with the option of an advanced standing for students with a previously earned Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration or an MBA.

Courses include Introduction to Aging, Emotion-Cognition Interactions and Aging, Current Issues in Aging Services, Counseling Older Adults and Their Families, and the Aging Family. The program also offers online courses in hospitality from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

Bachelor of Science in Health Services and Senior Living Leadership, Bellarmine University

A small liberal-arts school in Louisville, KY, Bellarmine University has recently expanded its health services degrees to include a Bachelor of Science in Health Services and Senior Living Leadership.

Students at Bellarmine study historical and contemporary trends in senior health care services, ethical issues in the field, laws and regulations, and serve as interns under preceptors, experienced mentors at senior organizations. 

Consisting of nine courses and 27 credit hours, the degree emphasizes resident-centered care, quality of life, and leadership and management, with course work focusing on the senior living environment, administration, health care issues in senior communities. The program has partnered with a number of organizations, including Argentum, a national association that supports senior living communities, and the Kentucky Senior Living Association. 

Institute for Senior Living, Washington State University

In 2018, the Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living opened at Washington State University in the School of Hospitality Business Management.

“Gone are the days of the stereotypical old folks’ home bingo and pinochle crowd. Seniors are living longer, healthier lives and thus need communities that can keep up.”
–Scott Eckstein
Washington State University

The director, Scott Eckstein, told WSU Insider, “Gone are the days of the stereotypical old folks’ home bingo and pinochle crowd. Seniors are living longer, healthier lives and thus need communities that can keep up.” 

Expanding from a single course, the institute’s new focus is on developing a new workforce highly trained in hospitality, business and leadership focused solely on senior care and quality of life. In addition, students are required to accumulate 1,000 internship hours with an affiliated senior organization to gain much-needed experience. The institute is named for the late Granger Cobb, the former CEO of Emeritus Senior Living and a board member of Brookdale Senior Living.

Bachelor of Science in Senior Living Management, Maryville University

Maryville’s Bachelor of Science in Senior Living Management is an online-only program that adheres to the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards’ 5 Domains of Practice for its practicum setting.

With about 1 million seniors residing in assisted living facilities that include a hybrid of private housing, medical care, supervision, nutrition and diet assistance, and community activities, Maryville’s program focuses on providing students an opportunity to learn about advancements in technology, emotional support, social services, and even intergenerational programming. 

The 128 credit-hour degree includes courses in the principles of care, senior care organization management, and healthcare management. In addition, a final capstone project, which requires an examination and analysis of a contemporary senior living trend, is needed to complete the program. 

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