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Demographic Earthquake to Shake Healthcare Industry: Courses Address Future Jobs for Treating Aging Baby Boomers and Beyond
San Diego, California

Ashford University has recently introduced several new online healthcare degrees to position its students to compete for high-demand healthcare jobs created by the aging population. The degrees are Bachelor of Arts in Complementary and Alternative Health, Bachelor of Arts in Health Informatics, Bachelor of Arts in Health and Wellness, and Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology.

"Aging Baby Boomers are going to cause a demographic earthquake that shakes the foundation of our health care system to its core and the workforce needs to be prepared," said Alice Vestergaard, Ed.D., executive dean of the College of Health, Human Services, and Science at Ashford University. "There are nearly 78 million Baby Boomers between the ages of 47 and 65 years old in America and they comprise 29 percent of the total population. They are entering a time of critical healthcare needs including age-related disease such as osteoarthritis accompanied by societal trends like obesity, of which 39 percent are afflicted."

Ashford introduced the degrees after years of analysis and careful planning. The goal: to provide students with degrees that may be unmatched among educational institutions, either traditional or online, in their depth, breadth and relevance to future healthcare needs. The curriculum includes programs addressing the technological revolution toward electronic health records and wireless healthcare.

"Americans are living longer and rather than thinking about putting them into the equivalent of assisted living warehouses, we need to create a workforce that is attuned to the new positive aging movement," said Vestergaard. "Envision skilled caregivers who can meet future human needs for aging in place, such as an existing residence, rather than in an institution. This is essential if the system is to deal with the millions of Baby Boomers who will soon suffer from Alzheimer's disease."

The Alzheimer's Association estimates that one out of every eight Baby Boomers will get Alzheimer's disease after turning 65 years old; at age 85, that risk grows to one in two. With the 65 and over population in the United States expected to double by 2030, there may be up to 16 million people with Alzheimer's disease by 2050 with almost 1 million new Alzheimer's disease cases diagnosed each year. For the general population in the United States, 4 percent of people move to a nursing home by age 80; with Alzheimer's disease, that number rises to 75 percent. This means an increased need for long term care specialties.

Vestergaard said new models of care will be aimed more at healthy aging, which includes purposeful living, social engagement, physical, spiritual, and psychological aspects of longevity rather than just treatments. The job opportunities will be significant.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry. Ten of the twenty fastest growing occupations are related to healthcare. Many job openings should arise in all healthcare settings as a result of employment growth and the need to replace workers who retire or leave their jobs for other reasons.

"Ashford University hopes to blaze new trails in meeting future needs with our healthcare degrees," said Vestergaard. "The new curriculum addresses not only trends we see in the actuarial tables, but also those in medicine, such as demand for non-traditional medicine, hence our Complementary and Alternative Health degree."

The degrees and their highlights are:

Complementary and Alternative Health - Developed in response to the growing public interest in holistic, homeopathic and spiritual healthcare, with training in unconventional medicine.

Health Informatics- Specifically designed to meet mandated needs for the modernization of medical records with electronic health data management. New careers are emerging in managing digital media and information in the practice of medicine. As prescribed by the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, healthcare companies are required to adopt electronic record-keeping systems by 2014.

Health and Wellness- Prevention and healthy aging are becoming more important with the aging population. This degree will prepare graduates for jobs in the wellness industry, such as gym instructor, trainer, health coach or YMCA teacher and will deliver a thorough understanding of the healthcare industry and explain the core functionalities of promoting healthy living as a business.

Gerontology - This degree provides a foundation of the biological, psychological, social, spiritual, and developmental aspects of aging and longevity. Graduates with a Gerontology degree will succeed in fields such as aging wellness coordinator, senior placement specialist, activities coordinator and senior advocate. This multidisciplinary perspective encourages students to explore the needs of the growing population of senior citizens and their impact on society.

About Dr. Alice Vestergaard

Alice Vestergaard, Executive Dean of the College of Health, Human Services, and Science. In her position as Executive Dean, Dr. Vestergaard is responsible for academic and curricular policies and programs, as well as the coordination of campus faculty, deans and chairpersons. Dr. Vestergaard has specialized in long-term care, emerging health technology, and the study of brain-health in aging. She has more than 25 years experience in both the private and public education sectors and has lectured extensively on her fields of expertise. She has served as lead faculty, faculty trainer, and curriculum developer within diverse multi-cultural settings.

About Ashford University

Founded in 1918, Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools ( The University offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs online and at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. The University is known for its high quality yet highly affordable online and on-campus programs. For more information, please visit .


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