UCLA Luskin Professor Fernando Torres-Gil has co-authored a book on the shifting demographics of the U.S. titled “The Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.” In the next 30 years, the older population of the United States is expected to double and the country will become a majority-minority society. Torres-Gil and co-author Jacqueline Angel of the University of Texas, Austin, provide an in-depth examination of these demographic trends, which will undoubtedly affect the politics of aging, health, retirement security and immigration reform. The authors identify three forces that must be understood: “a politics of aging that includes generational tensions; conflicts over diversity and the need for immigrants; and the class divisions emanating from an economics of aging that may see greater poverty among the elderly.” Torres-Gil and Angel offer guidance for politicians and policymakers seeking to address these changes to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. Torres-Gil is a professor of social welfare and public policy at UCLA Luskin and director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging. His career spans the academic, professional and policy arenas, and he is a nationally recognized authority on health care, entitlement reform and the politics of aging.
A commentary on the changing demographics of older adults and minorities in the United States, co-authored by Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Juan Fernando Torres-Gil, was published in the Dallas Morning News. Torres-Gil and co-author Jacqueline L. Angel, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, caution lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that these changes will redefine “the next America” in important ways. “By 2050, the United States will be driven by two demographics, majority-minority and older people,” wrote Torres-Gil and Angel. “This dynamic of twin demographic trends — a doubling of the older population and minorities and immigrants becoming the majority — will create political competition between older whites and younger racial and ethnic groups over scarce public resources, such as taxes to preserve Social Security versus reinvesting in public education,” added the co-authors of the recently published book, “the Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.”
Lead instructor of a new leadership component of the revised curriculum is Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare, shown with faculty colleague Laura Wray-Lake during a recent forum at UCLA Luskin. Photo by George Foulsham
By Stan Paul
A newly revised Master of Social Welfare curriculum at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs comes with an expectation: “We expect you to use your career to make a huge difference,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and lead instructor of a new leadership component.
Social welfare has a long tradition at UCLA going back to the 1940s and a highly regarded national reputation of training multiple generations of social workers, and the purposeful changes have been made with a fresh focus and expanded goals for the two-year graduate professional program.
“It’s a new program in the sense that we have a new curriculum and new areas of concentration,” said Laura Abrams, professor and chair of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, explaining that the changes are designed to greater utilize the strengths and expertise of faculty and provide specialized and enhanced in-depth training to students.
Each new concentration allows students to delve deeply into an area of focus and, at the same time, to prepare graduates for leadership positions locally, nationally and globally throughout the course of their careers. They are:
- Health and Mental Health Across the Life Span
- Social and Economic Justice
- Child and Family Well-Being
“I think we have to prepare social workers to be the best possible thinkers, leaders, educators, activists they can be.”
— Laura Abrams, professor and chair of social welfare
Some things will remain the same because the need for social workers is as relevant as ever, if not more, according to Abrams. “We are obviously incorporating some of the same principles,” she said of the program and its “overarching mission” to train the next generation of social work practitioners and leaders in the field, champion the development of knowledge for the social work profession, and strengthen social institutions and services in Los Angeles and beyond. “Everything has to be grounded in, ‘How do we engage clients and communities? How do we help solve some of these social issues like homelessness, kids who have social and emotional issues in schools.’ It’s not that we are focusing on a different set of issues, we are just refreshing our curriculum and making it more up-to-date.”
In addition to the course on leadership that the entire cohort of first-year students will be taking this Winter Quarter, Abrams said all first-year courses have been revised and updated.
“These are all new and they have been rolling out this year,” she said, adding that the divisions between “micro” and “macro” practice — or the distinction between clinical, or direct, practice and community practice — have made way for a more generalist practice approach.
“We realized that most social workers do a little bit of everything,” said Abrams, explaining the reasoning behind the shift to the new concentrations, which come with new faculty searches and hires to augment them. “Within each of those areas students should be expected to get a grounding in policy as well as practice.”
In addition, students will receive more training in research and statistics. So, like their peers in UCLA Luskin’s other graduate programs in public policy and urban planning, they will be working on yearlong capstone projects that mix qualitative and quantitative work, as well as opportunities to take on group projects.
The programs will still be flexible enough to allow students to take electives from the School’s other programs.
“We’ve always kept in mind that we are embedded in a school of public affairs with top-notch public policy and urban planning programs where we have the opportunity to be interdisciplinary, and we need to be,” Torres-Gil said. “It’s all part of the overall Luskin School mission that we’re making a difference, our graduates are special, they’re unique, they’re going places and the Luskin School is UCLA’s tool to train those that are going to be involved in those real-world problems and issues and make a big difference.”
The leadership aspect of the training seeks to guide students in “their ability to impact social change, to be sophisticated policy advocates and to plan for a career where they will exercise leadership at all levels, whether they are starting off as a clinician or as a lower-level eligibility worker in a large bureaucracy,” Torres-Gil said. “Over time we expect them to move up the ranks, whether it’s a CBO (community-based organization), nonprofit, public bureaucracy or practice,” he added.
Torres-Gil said that this approach is important for a number of reasons, including exerting power and being influential in areas traditionally dominated by arenas such as business, journalism, economics, communication and political science.
“Social workers are grounded in understanding, intuitively and right there at the front lines, how issues affect people, and so we want to be more upstream and train social workers to understand what it takes to be an effective social change agent and leader,” even though terms like “influence” and “power” may “go against the grain of the social work profession that wants to focus on social justice and social equity,” he said.
Other reasons include managing and assuming leadership roles in a career that may last decades and involve a number of different jobs or positions. With the idea of longevity in mind, Torres-Gil, who also serves as the director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, said it is impossible to pack everything into a single program, but “here are the attributes, those competencies, capabilities that I need to build a greater ability to be effective and to make social change.”
Torres-Gil continued, “So we want to make sure the MSW part of the Luskin School has that same mindset; we’re not just any graduate school, we’re UCLA, we’re Luskin and over time people are going to say, ‘If you want to make a difference, if you want to be a power player, if you want to be an elite leader who is seen as a go-to person or whatever the issue is, get a UCLA MSW.’ That’s the aspiration.”
Abrams noted that the curriculum revamp started “long before the last presidential election, but I think there’s a lot more challenges that are going to be happening, especially in vulnerable communities.”
In sum, “I think we have to prepare social workers to be the best possible thinkers, leaders, educators, activists they can be,” Abrams said. “So they have to be armed with the tools of theory, they have to have tools of research, they have to have tools of practice.”
Details about the new Plan of Study are available on the UCLA Luskin website.
By Les Dunseith
The number of Americans age 85 and older now constitutes the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.
The second-fastest growing age group? Those age 100 and older.
The impact on society of increased longevity thanks to advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles was a centerpiece of a presentation by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series held Feb. 7, 2017.
Jenkins, whose bestselling book “Disrupt Aging” also served as the title for her lecture, talked about the necessity to rethink how we view the aging process in the years ahead.
“It’s not just about adding years to the end of life. It’s about changing the way we live throughout our lives,” Jenkins told a crowd of more than 200 people at Skirball Cultural Center. “Our ability to live longer, healthier and more productive lives is one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. And yet we don’t see it that way. We often view it as a problem rather than an accomplishment.”
She urged the audience to think about a youngster they know today, perhaps a child or grandchild around 10 years old. Current research thinking predicts that child will have about a 50/50 chance of living to be 100.
She also noted that gerontology experts speculate that the first person who will live to be age 150 has already been born. “In this audience,” she joked, and the room erupted in laughter.
Her point, of course, is that increased longevity for a significant portion of the population not only impacts healthcare and public policy and the infrastructure of communities, but also the way people deal with the aging process and its impacts on their loved ones and themselves.
“The way people are aging is changing, but our attitudes and our stereotypes have not changed,” Jenkins said in an interview prior to the lecture. “I would like for us to be this ageless society. So that regardless of your age, you are judged on the quality of your mind and what you bring to the workplace, or what you bring into the environment. And that it’s not about being a particular age.”
Coping with the societal impact of the demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”
New policies and approaches are needed to successfully adjust to an aging population. “Older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”
Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has about 38 million members over age 50.
The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins was also an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.
“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” Torres-Gil said in advance of the lecture. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”
AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA and its research, educational and planning capabilities. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”
People at UCLA in fields of study such as medicine, gerontology, public policy and urban planning “have an enormous opportunity to rethink the course of life,” Jenkins said. “If we are going to live to be 100, how might that change the way we educate — not only the youth, but all of us — throughout the lifespan?”
California and Los Angeles, in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents, particularly those in minority populations.
In a question and answer session that followed the lecture and was moderated by Torres-Gil, he asked for Jenkins’ perspective on diversity given the fact that so many of those entering old age are from ethnic minority populations.
“We at AARP have a huge role to play in showing how nonprofit organizations ought to be community partners at the local level,” Jenkins responded. “Our goal at AARP is to be in your life every day, concerned about the issues that are important to you, not just necessarily about what’s important to AARP. And that absolutely includes diverse communities all across this country.”
Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of rethinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of “Disrupt Aging.”
“We ought to accept our age and feel good about where we are in life,” Jenkins said. “Among our members, many of them are not retiring. They might be leaving a particular job, but it’s to do something different.”
Still, she noted, American society is obsessed with age. When people are asked what they are most likely to lie about, age is the top answer. “But what if we could eliminate our preoccupation with a number? For example, what if we decided that middle age started at 65? What would that do to your own preconceptions?” Jenkins asked.
“It’s not our own aging that we need to fight against,” Jenkins said during the lecture. “It’s the ageist attitudes and perceptions that permeate society and play such a huge role in our culture.”
She acknowledged that aging does create challenges that older Americans wrestle with every day. “As we get older, many of us find things that we have always taken for granted more difficult to achieve,” she said. “Our wants and our needs change, but our environment does not always adapt to address those changes.”
In her view, the capacity to deal successfully with that reality is an issue that impacts individuals, governments and businesses in equal measure. “We blame ourselves. Instead of changing our environment to fit our needs, we bemoan getting older,” she said.
Efforts by AARP and by researchers such as Loukaitou-Sideris seek ways to make communities more livable for an aging population. Jenkins cited a research example that focuses on the fact that many older people have trouble getting in and out of a car.
“We attribute it to the weakening of the leg muscles and the loss of sense of balance rather than considering the inadequacies of a car seat that does not swivel and allow us to emerge straight forward rather than trying to slide out of the car sideways,” Jenkins said. “Car seats were not made with a 75-year-old in mind.”
The idea of refocusing our thinking to better accommodate an aging population also applies to communities and housing. Today, more people are living into their 80s and 90s and want to stay in their homes as long as possible.
“Basic access should be built into the homes, just like wiring and plumbing,” Jenkins said. “Living in a community with services nearby and having a home that accommodates our needs are tremendous assets for those of us who want to age in place.”
During her lecture at Skirball Cultural Center on Feb. 7, Jo Ann Jenkins will talk about AARP's dedication to enhancing the quality of life for people as they age.
By Les Dunseith
Thanks to advances in medicine, the number of Americans age 65 or older is expected to double in the next 25 years, and the oldest of the old – those 85 and older – now constitute the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Coping with the societal impact of this demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”
New policies will be needed to successfully adjust to an aging population, and a key player in helping to shape those policies is the next Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture speaker, AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has more than 37 million members over age 50.
During her lecture at Skirball Cultural Center at 6 p.m. on Feb. 7, Jenkins will talk about the transformation of AARP into a leader in social change, dedicated to enhancing quality of life for people as they age.
“She will convey very clearly that older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”
Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. But her presentation about AARP will also be of interest to staff, faculty and students in many other departments on campus.
“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”
The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins is an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Torres-Gil over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.
AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”
California, and Los Angeles in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents.
For example, because of a lack of public transit options, many elderly people are reluctant to give up driving their cars even when continuing to do so presents a safety concern for themselves and others.
“The truth of the matter is that American cities, and especially West Coast cities that have built so much around the automobile, are not age-friendly cities,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.
Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of re-thinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of the bestselling book, “Disrupt Aging,” that will also serve as the topic for her UCLA lecture at Skirball Cultural Center.
In Jenkins’ view, people need to challenge the negative stories often associated with getting older. Her book chronicles Jenkins’ own journey, as well as those of other individuals who are working to change what it means to age in America.
Jenkins has been described as a visionary and thought leader, a catalyst for breakthrough results, accelerating progress and contribution while fostering positive relationships inside and outside her organization, according to Tammy Borrero, UCLA Luskin’s director of events.
The societal evolution that Jenkins and AARP envision cannot be accomplished through words alone, of course. “You want to disrupt aging – this can be your desire – but you really need to have design, planning and policy in place to do that,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “And that’s where UCLA Luskin comes in.”
Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy and director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging, was recently published as a contributing author of the book: The Upside of Aging: How Long Life is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy, and Purpose. This book, a collaboration between renowned thought-leaders in the subject and Milken Institute President Paul H. Irving, examines the changing definition of aging revolutions in genomics, technology, and medicine continue to expand the average human lifespan. Each chapter features one contributing author’s knowledge of a specific aspect of aging, ranging from the characteristics of an aging brain to the role of aging workers in society to the factors of accommodating an increasing mature population.
Through the publication of this book (and a number of other projects), editor Irving continues to advance the Milken Institute’s initiatives to “improve public health and aging across America and the world, expand capital access, and enhance philanthropic impact.”
The full list of contributing authors are as follows:
Laura L. Carstensen, Pinchas Cohen, Freda Lewis-Hall, Joseph F. Coughlin, Ken Dychtwald, Michael M. Hodin, Marc Freedman, Jody Heymann, Susan Raymond, Henry Cisneros, Steven Knapp, Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Baroness Sally Greengross, Dan Houston, Philip A. Pizzo, A. Barry Rand; with a foreword by Michael Milken.
Link to the publishing company’s product page:
Associate Dean Fernando Torres-Gil has been named to an Obama administration post as a member and vice chair of the National Council on Disability. This marks the third term of national service in a
presidential administration for Professor Torres-Gil, who previously served under President Bill Clinton and President Jimmy Carter.
Prior to his roles at UCLA, he served as a professor of gerontology and public administration at the
University of Southern California, where he is still an adjunct professor of gerontology. Before serving in academia, Prof. Torres-Gil was the first assistant secretary for aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as the staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging. Prof. Torres-Gil also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992.
Prof. Torres-Gil holds appointments as professor of social welfare and public policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs and is the director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging. Professor Torres-Gil is an expert in the fields of health and long-term care, the politics of aging, social policy, ethnicity and disability.
He is the author of six books and more than 80 articles and book chapters, including The New Aging: Politics and Change in America (1992), and Lessons From Three Nations, Volumes I and II (2007). In recognition of his many academic accomplishments, he was elected a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America in 1985 and the National Academy of Public Administration in 1995. He also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992 and is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. He is currently a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors, the National Academy of Social Insurance and of the board of directors of Elderhostel, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the AARP Foundation, the Los Angeles Airport Commission, and The California Endowment.