By Hannah Esrock–

The U of L Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging has received a $2.55 million grant that will benefit greater Louisville’s aging population.

The Institute set a number of goals for this new grant, including “increasing the geriatric and primary care work force, training health care providers that can deliver culturally appropriate services to Kentucky’s growing Hispanic population, decreasing the chronic disease burden in rural Kentucky, increasing supportive environments to promote health specifically for older rural populations” and more.

The main objective is to educate a new generation of nurses, physicians and caregivers on how to take care of seniors, according to the Institute’s Executive Director Dr. Anna Faul.

“The problem is that there is a lot of training that goes into geriatrics when, in reality, all the discipline isn’t realistic. One has to be flexible to problems that occur in an older person’s life,” said Faul.

A large issue for Kentucky is the lack of healthcare literacy in rural parts of the state. In the areas surrounding Louisville, adults have little knowledge or time to be effectively treated. With this new educational program, the Institute hopes to break that cycle.

Because of the steadily rising Hispanic population in Louisville, it is critical that the city has workers who can help seniors that cannot speak English. This is why Faul’s team connected with Shelby County, which has one of the highest Hispanic populations in Kentucky.

The Institute also hopes to use the grant to award more scholarships to Hispanic students. Although U of L has a fairly low Hispanic graduation rate – only 40 percent – Faul said this program could maintain incentive to keep more of these students enrolled in school.

The students who receive this training will make a difference in geriatric care programs all over the state. Faul’s rationale is that allowing students to work with seniors will provide them with valuable insight for their respective futures.

“This is a great example of how two different generations come together for a strong new program. This will be the future of research, combining the old with the new,” said Faul.