ing, for instance, by the development of technologies that perform the more labor-intensive of their duties. Another retention strategy would be to recruit older workers into leadership roles (Rosenfeld, 2007). Retired geriatric-health professionals have invaluable knowledge and expertise, and they could become academic leaders in the training of future generations. This would be of great value, especially considering the scarcity of faculty described above. Retired generalists, with additional training, could also re-enter their fields as geriatric experts. The social work profession has embraced this concept with the development of the Retired Social Workers Project, which uses both distance and in-person education to train retired social workers in geriatric concepts so that they might return to the workforce to assist older patients (IGSW, 2007).
While the current elderly population is healthier and more educated and has higher rates of volunteerism than previous generations of the same age, negative stereotypes of older adults persist, including that they are typically physically disabled, senile, and disconnected from social activities (Krout and McKernan, 2007; Wood and Mulligan, 2000). In spite of the job satisfaction that has been documented among geriatric providers, students still see working with these populations as depressing, which may be one of the reasons that when students are asked about their specialization preferences, they continue to rank geriatrics near the bottom (Anderson and Wiscott, 2004; Cummings and Galambos, 2002).
Early exposures to a broad range of geriatric patients—and especially to healthier older adults—has a positive effect on interest in geriatric fields (Bernard et al., 2003; Cummings et al., 2003, 2005; Linn and Zeppa, 1987; Medina-Walpole et al., 2002; Reuben et al., 1995; Woolsey, 2007). One particularly effective strategy for providing students with this sort of positive experience is pairing them with older patients who act as mentors (Corwin et al., 2006; Stewart and Alford, 2006; Waldrop et al., 2006). In such a mentoring program a student will typically meet regularly with a healthy older adult over a certain period of time, often to complete specific assignments; the older patient acts to sensitize the student to the positive aspects of aging, to dispel myths, and to create empathy for the frustrations faced by seniors. A second strategy whose effectiveness is supported by evidence is to expose students to professional role models or mentors who reinforce the positive aspects of geriatric care and, by doing so, inspire students to enter geriatric fields themselves (Hazzard, 1999; Johnson and Valle, 1996; Maas et al., 2006; Mackin et al., 2006; Medina-Walpole et al., 2002).