As a leader in the field of geriatrics/gerontology, you have a responsibility to make the case for geriatrics or gerontology. You are an ambassador not just for your research but for the field. Still, whether you’re talking to your dean, a potential funder, a student, or a general naysayer, it can be challenging to answer the question, “why gero?” Here we offer a few suggestions to help you make your case.
Link geriatrics to what’s important to your audience.
For example, if you’re talking with your dean, tie the benefits of gero-infused curriculum and experiential learning to the mission of the school’s other major initiatives of reforms. If you’re talking with a funder, emphasize how your work in geriatrics will have effects that reach broadly, even beyond older adults, to families and communities. If you’re talking to a member of the media, try to link your work to a hot community or national issue. Scroll down for messages and data points you can use to set up your argument.
Don’t minimize the incremental steps.
It may be far less than you’d hoped for, but if your audience agrees to a small part of your proposal, try to see that as your foot in the door. Once you’ve demonstrated the positive impact of your idea or program, you’re more likely to be able to move ahead with broader initiatives.
Avoid scare tactics.
Merely reciting the statistics about the exploding number of older adults needing social work, nursing and medical services may cause your audience to tune out. Most people now know that the number of older adults on the horizon is huge. In fact, the size of the problem may suggest that there is nothing we can do about it. It’s the solutions to the associated challenges that are compelling. Use data strategically (and sparingly) to support your argument, not be your argument. For more on using data effectively, see the Data section of this site.
Use testimonials and personal stories to bring your argument home.
There are lots of stories that you can use to help personalize your argument. Maybe you have a family member, a patient, a student, or a community member who has shared with you a particularly meaningful experience. Don’t be afraid to use it. People and stories are often what people remember long after a presentation is over. If you are one on one in a discussion, you might ask if the person has had experience with the challenges of getting good care for an older loved one. Many of us have. For more on using stories in your communications, see the Stories section of this site.
Provide examples of successful ideas/programs to your audience.
Often, hearing about the successes of others, particularly competitors, can move an individual or institution to action. Having a list of exemplars readily available can be helpful.
It may take several interactions with a person or group for them to really understand your message. Remember to leave material with them—the Action Briefs developed by the Hartford Foundation or other brief informational pieces. Be persistent and stay “on message.”
John A. Hartford Foundation Messages & Evidence
In this section we offer you a variety of messages and data points developed by and for the Hartford Foundation that you can use to make the case for geriatrics and gerontology. Keep in mind that different messages will resonate with different audiences so choose accordingly. View the entire Hartford Foundation message framework here. To read more about developing messages visit the How Do I section of this site.
- Population demographics
- Reshaping health care
- Training health care professionals
- The importance of aging research
Action Briefs from The John A. Hartford Foundation
Creating a Geriatric Presence at Your School: Top 10 List from the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing
The Process of Bringing about Change in Your Social Work Program from the CSWE Gero-Ed Center
Gerontology as Pedagogy from the CSWE Gero-Ed Center
A National Crisis: The Need for Geriatrics Faculty Training and Development from International Longevity Center USA
Bandwidth depends on the active participation of the foundation’s grantees. If you have tips on talking about your work with decision-makers at your institution/organization, funders, or others, please let us know, so we can share it on the site and make it available to the rest of the Hartford network.
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