Luskin Students and Professors Tackle the “Silver Tsumani” of Aging America The economics and logistics of an aging population presents one of the greatest challenges to social welfare

UCLA - Networking Event1 

By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Gerontology and social welfare go hand in hand, and the intersection of these two fields may be the key to solving America’s future. As the largest living generation in America (the “Baby Boomers”) enters retirement age, there is a growing demand for professionals trained to work with the elderly.

“Many researchers are calling the aging of America’s population the “silver tsunami” because the demographics of the country are so dramatically shifting in the direction of 65+ age group,” said social welfare student and researcher Hayley Schleifstein.

At the Luskin School, student organizations like the Gerontology & Geriatrics Interest Group (GIG) and the Social Welfare Gerontology Caucus work to raise awareness and interest in working with the aged population. “My research interest is getting young people involved,” said Lia Marshall, a social welfare doctoral student. “I want to introduce them to this idea when they’re young and maybe 10 years from now, it might be their career.”

But the Baby Boomer generation is not the only large population in America – the current generation of Millenials (ages 18-34) are about to surpass the Baby Boomers in population size.

“This will be the first time in 150 years where there are as many individuals, 80 million, in Millenials as Baby Boomers,” said Social Welfare and Public Policy professor Fernando Torres-Gil.

For America, this statistic means that the same number of people will be simultaneously entering the work force and retiring – and that the Millenials will be funding social benefits (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) for the Baby Boomers while carrying the knowledge that those benefits may well be gone by their own retirement.

Professor Torres-Gil’s research tackles these difficult policy issues along with the political implications of aging. His work is aimed towards finding policy solutions for a large aging population and creating new structures of support for future generations. “There is no consensus about how to provide reasonable quality of life for the elderly,” said Torres-Gil. “These [issues] go right into the heart of policy, politics, and visceral concerns. People wonder: Who will take care of me when I’m old? Congress is divided because the public is divided.”

However, there may be hope for the future brewing at UCLA. “The good news is that UCLA has very active young people and clubs volunteering for senior programs. We even have an undergraduate minor in gerontology,” said Torres-Gil. “Once we educate people, they are much more open and interested.”

On April 9, the Luskin School hosted its first Careers in Aging Week event to highlight professional opportunities in gerontology as well as its importance to this generation. “Careers in Aging Week” is an annual, nationwide movement sponsored by the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) that draws attention to growing career opportunities with the aging population.

Valerie Coleman, an organizer for the Luskin Careers in Aging Week, entered Urban Planning with a distinct interest in working with the aging population. “When I came into the Luskin, my classmates were surprised at my interest,” said Coleman. “So last year, I coordinated an event with Luskin students about working with the aging population and how it will affect all our careers.”

This year, Coleman teamed up with Zoe Koehler, co-chair for the Gerontology Caucus, and Lia Marshall, co-coordinator for GIG, to coordinate an official Careers in Aging Week event.

“I was especially impressed at the varied turnout at our Networking event, in which a few business and economics students showed up,” said Koehler. “This goes to show that the issue of our aging society is and will be relevant to students of all disciplines.”

The UCLA event featured an afternoon panel with a multidisciplinary array of leaders in the field of aging and aging research, including Professor Torres-Gil. The panel was followed by a networking event that allowed for participants to interact with professionals from the field and discover the variety of opportunities connected to the aging population.

“Careers in Aging is an important event right now because by 2050, 1 out of 5 people will be over the age of 65,” said Koehler. “Whether UCLA students intentionally choose to go specifically into work with seniors or not, they will be working with seniors. We want to help prepare students for the reality of our rapidly shifting and aging demographic in this country.”


To learn more about gerontology at Luskin, visit the GIG website at:




Urban Planning Students Earn Levine Distinguished Fellowship

Urban Planning students Valerie Coleman and Aaron Ordower have been named Howard and Irene Levine Distinguished Fellows, a program offered through the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. UCLA Anderson School of Business MBA student Neil Doshi is the third recipient of the award.

The fellowship is given to UCLA Anderson, UCLA Law or UCLA Luskin Urban Planning or Public Policy students who are entering their last year of graduate studies. Students demonstrating an interest and gift in real estate and social responsibility, academic accomplishment, leadership, and service to the real estate program at UCLA are chosen.

Coleman and Ordower both have experience working in the affordable housing and sustainability sector prior to entering their studies at UCLA. Coleman was a project manager at Rebuilding Together SF, which focuses on preserving affordable home ownership in San Francisco. Ordower spent time at World Bank working on projects focused on sustainable development investment lending in Latin America.

They also both have big goals for the future.

“While I still have some time to really dream big about my career, most likely I’ll want to work around issues of affordable housing and/or cities preparing for the tremendous increase in aging residents,” Coleman says. Though it was her work in community development that led her back to school, she discovered an interest learning about how cities can support the growing senior population through research work with Professor Fernando Torres-Gil at UCLA’s Center for Policy Research on Aging.

Ordower, who is currently in New York City doing two internships over the summer, says he aims to make meaningful economic changes in underinvested neighborhoods.

“I am passionate about creating affordable housing that is environmentally sustainable: both by constructing efficient buildings but also by creating affordable units close to the city center and close to jobs,” he says. “That could mean a role in local government or with a private sector developer working on projects that revitalize these neighborhoods.

Along with an annual stipend award and a chance to work with UCLA faculty and industry leaders in developing future case studies for real estate courses, Levine fellows are assigned a Ziman Center board member as a mentor and will have opportunities to attend social entrepreneurial real estate leadership training and engage in select internships.

Ordower says he’s confident that the fellowship will help him to develop skills he may be lacking by exposing him to private sector professionals.

“I hope they will help me identify the skills I need to develop, and expose me to practical advice,” he says.

“I’m excited to network with real estate professionals and to grow my understanding of real estate development,” says Coleman. “I’m excited to find where and how my interests overlap and hope to have the opportunity to do a research-based project as well.”