Rutgers University has joined the growing ranks of colleges offering senior living-related educational programs. Last week, the Rutgers School of Health Related Professions unveiled three online programs designed to address the physical and mental wellbeing of older Americans.

These are: a graduate certificate in aging; a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree with a concentration in aging; and a Master of Science in Health Sciences with a concentration in aging.

The programs — offered online to accommodate working healthcare professionals — are collaborative with other SHRP departments and emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of geriatric care. Topics include disease management, nutrition, psychiatric rehabilitation, alternative and complementary medicine, and ethical and legal issues.

“Many of the students who have enrolled have found the focus of their jobs shift to those 65 and older and want training in aging issues,” Davis says. “The way we are caring for patients is changing — and fast.”

The programs expand upon the school’s existing coursework in aging. Marta Olander, who recently received a Master of Science in Health Care Management from SHRP, will soon have the chance to apply the skills she learned at SHRP as an assistant administrator at a continuing care retirement facility in Monmouth County. The facility is gearing up to implement a quality improvement program that Olander became familiar with during her graduate work. The program, Interventions to Reduce Acute Care Transfers, detects clinical deterioration of nursing facility residents, helps improve communication between residents and health care providers, and reduces re-hospitalization rates.

“Since population aging is happening rapidly, practitioners need to learn practical skills that they can apply immediately,” Olander says.

In recent years, a growing number of post-secondary institutions have expanded their senior living course offerings. Among the two most popular tracks: management and caregiving courses.