The population of adults who are 65 and older in the United States is rapidly growing. The U.S. Census Bureau says this segment makes up nearly 15 percent of the total population, an increase of 2 percent from 2010.
“Directly impacted by the aging population are those who help care for them,” says Leslie Hasche, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). “This is something that will have a ripple effect in the coming years.”
One group directly impacted by the aging population are those who help care for them. “We have an aging population, and making sure that population can age with the kind of quality of life that they would like to have is really important,” says Jennifer Greenfield, an assistant professor in GSSW.’
hanks to a pilot grant from DU’s Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging, Hasche and Greenfield are studying the financial and mental well-being of caregivers in Colorado. They intend to survey more than 100 caregivers about their overall health and work experience. Many times, caregivers have to give up promotions and cannot be at work as often.
“We don’t know much about caregivers in relation to their economics,” Hasche says. “We haven’t looked specifically at how both the financial toll and the health and well-being toll could be alleviated if we have better workplace support.”
The Knoebel Institute, which opened this fall, focuses on finding ways to increase the healthy years of life through interdisciplinary coursework and research at DU, and by collaborating with community partners.
The partnership between Hasche and Greenfield is what makes this project possible. Greenfield has previous experience working on the financial impact of caregiving. Hasche has focused on the health and wellness of older adults and their families. Two master’s students within GSSW are also assisting with the research. One has an interest in aging and health; the other specializes in social work with Latino families.
“Caregivers are doing critically important work in our society,” Greenfield says. “We need to be able to properly support these individuals because so much of their work is unpaid and so much of it is invisible.”