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Healthy Aging

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How grantmaking can improve health and quality of life and reduce disability and disease in older people

Photo credit: PineBelt Association for Families

Photo credit: PineBelt Association for Families

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Grantmakers and health

If your concern as a funder is the state of health—and health care—in the U.S., then programs in geriatrics and gerontology may fit perfectly with your organizational goals. In fact, as the wave of Boomers reaching old age looms bigger and bigger, the health issues of older adults are likely to fall well within your purview.

According to the CDC, 80 percent of America’s 35 million older adults have at least one chronic medical condition, and 50 percent have more than one. The demand this places on the health care system is enormous—and still growing. By 2030, the number of U.S. adults aged 65 or older will more than double, to about 71 million. Health is an aging issue. And aging is a health issue.  

Opportunities to include programs for older adults in your health grantmaking are everywhere. Do you fund programs in higher education or professional training? While the number of people over age 65 is exploding, the number of health care professionals who have any exposure to the specialized skills needed to treat them is shrinking. The Geriatric Nursing Leadership Academy provides learning experiences that prepare and position nurses to work with multidisciplinary teams in improving the quality of care for geriatric patients. The academy is a collaboration between the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Sigma Theta Tau, the honor society of nurses.

Women’s health issues represent another area that extends to older adults. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, SOWN (Supportive Older Women’s Network) reduces isolation and depression and annually helps 1,500 older women access needed resources and cope with aging. Most of the funding for this program has been from smaller foundations and other private sources.

Potential funding areas

Here are just a few of the many funding areas in health that may include programs for older adults:

  • Community health services promotion
  • Health and wellness education that supports making positive lifestyle changes
  • Biomedical research
  • Development of  community-based services, such as medical screening, that helps keep people active, involved, and healthy


Source: Grantmakers In Aging January 2012


Here are some resources from the GIA database for grantmakers interested in health:

The Healthy Aging Program at CDC conducts activities that contribute to a comprehensive approach to helping older adults live long, productive, and independent lives. It collaborates with other CDC programs and key external partners.

The Healthy States Initiative: Keeping the Aging Population Healthy
More than two-thirds of current health care costs are for treating chronic illnesses among older Americans. While we tend to accept chronic disease as an inevitable part of aging, by encouraging the use of preventive services and healthy lifestyles, many chronic illnesses are preventable. This Legislator Policy Brief provides grantmakers and policymakers with key information to develop strategies to enhance health and preserve independence in the growing aging population.

“How Does It Feel? The Older Adult Health Care Experience,” a national poll by the John A. Hartford Foundation. The poll's findings found that a large majority of older Americans experienced significant and troubling gaps in their primary care. The poll focused exclusively on Americans age 65 and older and assessed whether, in a 12 months period, they received seven specific medical services to support their healthy aging. A complete list of findings from the poll is available. 

EngAGEment issue brief: Promoting Health, Strengthening Communities
Funding initiatives that promote health and forestall disease can create a better quality of life for older adults and enable them to continue to contribute to their families and communities.

GIA Mentors

Grantmakers interested in starting a program area related to senior health or in expanding their funding in this area are invited to contact Grantmakers in Aging at 703-413-0413 or to email GIA’s Chief Executive Officer, John Feather, for a referral to an expert  on staff at a grantmaking foundation who is willing to serve as a mentor to other grantmakers.

For more resources, please visit our Resource Center


Help us pursue our mission and strengthen grantmaking to support the needs and potential of older people.