North Carolina's elderly population - comprising those over 65 years of age - is the fastest growing segment of the state's population. It is expected to expand from 969,000 in 2000 to 2.1 million by 2030. At the East Carolina University College of Nursing, our work focuses on the eastern portion of the state - a rural, underserved region where citizens are in poorer health than the rest of the state. Although the state ranks 38th in premature mortality, if only the 41 counties of eastern North Carolina were represented, it would rank 45th nationally.
The fact that quality care for the elderly is an area of emphasis for us is reflected in a multitude of ways. Geriatric care is a focus of both our graduate and undergraduate curricula. A number of our faculty are experts who specialize in geriatric care (several are certified as geriatric nurse practitioners or have received funding from federal organizations such as the National Institute of Nursing Research and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, for example). Following a successful 3 year cycle of funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program grant, we received a fourth year of funding that allows us to continue our work to improve healthcare of older adults in eastern North Carolina. Our innovative education programs include interprofessional geriatric experiences between students and healthcare providers from most healthcare professions, provision of dementia education for primary care providers and screening, resources and education for older adults and their caregivers in the eastern region.