The Center for Aging Research and Education: Improving How We Age

America needs nurses, and the UW–Madison School of Nursing is focused on mitigating that shortage. Established by the university in 2011, the Center for Aging Research and Education (CARE) is building bridges, addressing health disparities across older populations, and inspiring future health care professionals. This rewarding program prepares nursing students to support aging populations across Wisconsin. With a quarter of U.S. adult children managing the complex health conditions of their parents, CARE is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of older adults through education, leadership, practice, and discovery.

Through donor generosity, CARE has been able to connect with researchers across 11 different disciplines and programs; support 14 online workshops in 2021 for direct-care staff; and donate aging-simulation equipment to instruct students on hearing loss, reduced mobility, unsteady gait, and arthritis. This essential resource is enriching the gerontological curriculum at UW–Madison, assisting in developing and offering educational programs to the eldercare workforce. What’s more, CARE is addressing the unique challenges of those aging in rural areas, where there are fewer resources.

“My experience with CARE increased my passion for working with the elderly and helped me see the importance of community supports,” shares Kathryn Gerber ’16. “It helped me be present and not work strictly in a medical way.”

Donor contributions are also aiding CARE in advancing educational opportunities to frontline providers through workshops and conferences and offering nursing expertise to family members, community organizations, and housing and service providers, making it easier for everyone to support the health and well-being of older adults. CARE has also recruited more than 170 older adult community members to take part in one-on-one conversations with nursing students as part of the students’ experiential coursework.

“Personal connection with a different generation is so important for young people,” says one of the volunteer participants. “It’s easy to write us off, but that personal connection gives a wider perspective and elevates our relevancy.”

The fostering of interprofessional and campus-community collaborations delivered through this program will improve the quality of life of elder populations and those who love them, for generations to come.

–Nicole Heiman, Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association