In an effort to provide better care for the community’s aging population, while simultaneously preparing students for careers in the fields of aging services and gerontology, this fall College of the Canyons will introduce its new Skills for Healthy Aging Resources and Programs (SHARP) certificate program.
Representing a program format not currently offered anywhere else in the nation, the college’s 12-unit SHARP program is designed for students to be able to complete in just one semester, with classes scheduled in the evenings and afternoons to accommodate working adults.
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Geared toward those interested in careers in aging services or the larger health-care industry, the SHARP program will provide the skills and knowledge needed to begin delivering various types of evidence-based health promotion (EBHP) strategies to older adults, in a variety of health care settings.
“This program was designed to help older adults change their lives, and help students reach their career goals,” said Dr. Patty Robinson, Dean of the Social Sciences and Business Division at College of the Canyons.
According to the National Council on Aging, EBHP is defined as “a process of planning, implementing and evaluating programs adapted from tested models or interventions in order to address health issues” in both individual and community settings.
The SHARP program’s use of EBHP programs for older adults emphasizes both disease prevention and treatment, with strategies focused on topics including self-care, physical activity, fall prevention, substance abuse, nutrition and depression.
“The goal of the SHARP program is to teach students about these issues and get them trained to be able to go out into the field and relay this important information to the growing number of older adults out there,” said Robinson. “If we can start training and educating people about how to take better care of themselves, they will live longer and healthier lives.”
According to recent projections, more than 10,000 adults from the baby boomer generation will join the ranks of “older adult” each day, until 2029 — representing approximately 25 percent of the United States population by 2025.
In addition, chronic diseases affect the quality of life of more than 133 million Americans and more than 14 million Californians. It’s projected that by the year 2030 approximately six of every 10 people will be managing more than one chronic health condition.
Although various EBHP programs are already being offered to older adults in more than 30 counties by the state’s various community service providers — in settings such as senior centers, hospitals, health clinics and senior housing facilities — program leaders and facilitators are now required to undergo specific training in order to be certified for such work.
According to a recent Aging Labor Force Study conducted by the California Social Work Education Center, most public social services employees do not have any formal training related to aging and older adults.
“This program was designed to provide those organizations with qualified set of graduates to form an applicant pool and hire from,” said Dr. Janet Frank, Assistant Director for Academic Programs, Multicampus Programs in Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, UCLA. “However, gerontology is a multidisciplinary field, so the content included in this program will give students a great foundation to pursue many types of work in the healthcare industry.”
The SHARP pilot program was designed in collaboration with College of the Canyons, Santa Barbara City College, Partners in Care Foundation, National Council on Aging, California Geriatric Education Center and the California Council on Gerontology and Geriatrics, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
This fall, the college will begin offering the four-course, 12-unit, SHARP certificate program, with students being able to complete the first two courses in the program — Gerontology101: Introduction to Healthy Aging and Gerontology 102: Health Promotion-Behavior Change Theories and Practices — during the first six weeks of the program.
During the second 10-week block, students will begin to apply the skills they have learned in the courses Gerontology103: Health Promotion Program Implementation and Gerontology 104: Health Promotion-Field Practicum, which involves 60-hours of fieldwork at a local community service provider.
Upon completion of the program students will be able to pursue employment in the aging services industry in positions that require individuals to plan, administer, evaluate and/or teach such programs.
“Our ultimate goal is to have better prepared people working in the aging services industry,” Frank said. “But these EBHP programs are also going to help bring about a new way to deliver community-based health care services.”
For more information about the college’s new SHARP program or the schedule of courses being offered this fall please contact Patty Robinson at (661) 362-3992 or visit http://www.canyons.edu/departments/SOC/SHARP/Sharp_Home.asp .