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Panelists at PCC discuss aging workforce

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The metropolitan area population is aging. Is the community ready to handle all that that entails?

A panel discussion and strategic planning conference at Portland Community College suggests that the answer may be “yes,” but only with a great deal of thoughtful discussion and hard work.

The so-called “Age Summit” took place Thursday on the Sylvania Campus in southwest Portland. Keynote speakers were Harry R. Moody, director of academic affairs for AARP, an organization that represents people age 50 and older, and Judy Goggin, president of Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based think tank that deals with issues of aging.

Discussion topics included age-friendly policies and work environments; services for older students; current and potential initiatives at PCC; and model programs from elsewhere. An estimated 60 people attended the event.

Community colleges are a “crucial player” in the debate about the aging society, Moody said. Especially in such key areas as retraining and educating older workers, living-enrichment programs and civic engagement.

“You’re one of the big players in this effort in terms of size as well as quality,” he said. But he also warned that community colleges – while being flexible and quick to respond to the issues facing the nation – don’t do a great job of communicating with each other.

“There’s a lot of re-inventing of the wheel,” Moody said. “Our goal is to share information.”

While many Oregon businesses report that they are not prepared for a rush of retirees, Moody said that’s also true nationwide. He said some sectors of the economy – health care and investment counseling to name two – are ahead of the curve. “At least it’s on their radar screen,” he said. “We have a big communications job in front of us. For now, the plan is to stick with the leaders, and (PCC) is one of the leaders.”

The PCC event was organized by Janice Abushakrah, coordinator of the gerontology program at the college.

PCC and AARP of Oregon recently released three studies that suggest keeping Oregon’s baby boomers employed beyond traditional retirement age may be the salvation for the state’s projected workforce shortages in the coming years. The college has created a host of projects aimed at older students and the aging workforce, including:

Ï Life By Design Northwest program, which assists retirees in discovering their passions and purpose in their later lives.

Ï An expanded gerontology program, designed for students who wish to develop careers in the field of aging.

Ï A three-year program to provide skill- and career-development opportunities for unlicensed, non-certified care workers in assisted living facilities.

Ï A Senior Studies Institute, which offers classes for older learners.

Also on hand for Thursday’s summit was Jennifer Sasser, chairwoman of Human Services for Marylhurst University.

"In order to service adults for all various reasons we must treat them as whole human beings," Sasser told the audience. "There is a huge amount of diversity within these older adults and institutions must establish best practices.

"We are getting to shape an emerging social problem," she added.

Marylhurst plays host to a breakfast seminar from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Friday, on the topic of “The New Aging Enterprise.” The event takes place in the Old Library, Administration Building, 17600 Highway 43, between Lake Oswego and West Linn in Clackamas County.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »