New online certificate focuses on interior design for an aging population

This is the latest in an occasional series featuring online programs at the University of Nebraska.

Lower shelves, stair railings, more bars to grab onto – common-sense changes like these can help older individuals stay in their homes or offices longer and maintain a higher quality of life. Yet as the population of Americans age 65 and over grows rapidly, so too is the demand for professionals able to design and build environments that meet the unique needs of older adults.

A new online program offered by the University of Nebraska aims to meet this workforce demand. A graduate certificate in gerontology with a concentration in interior design, taught collaboratively by faculty from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is now available through the University of Nebraska Online Worldwide website. The certificate is available fully online, making it an excellent option for working professionals looking to specialize their skillsets.

“Designing for an aging population is about creating spaces that fit the needs of older adults. As people age, they want to remain in their homes. This program is designed to prepare people to create environments that allow older individuals to live in comforting and supportive environments,” said Julie Masters, professor and chair in the UNO Department of Gerontology. “The certificate is one of the first in the nation where students can combine knowledge of gerontology with the principles of interior design – an innovative and collaborative effort between University of Nebraska campuses that will address an area of growing need and interest.”

Masters noted that the population of Americans age 65 and over is expected to more than double, from 42 million to 88 million, by 2050, creating career advancement opportunities for professionals interested in acquiring training in gerontology and interior design. Architects, engineers, interior designers, realtors, hospital or nursing administrators, health care workers and others would be ideally suited to the program, as would current master’s degree students in gerontology, interior design or architecture. The graduate certificate includes 18 credit hours.

The certificate joins other NU online programs in related fields, including undergraduate and graduate certificates and a master’s degree in social gerontology offered by UNO, and a master’s degree in architecture with a specialization in interior design offered by UNL. Together, the programs demonstrate NU’s expertise in gerontology, interior design and architecture.

According to a 2012 survey by DesignIntelligence magazine, design issues surrounding the aging population rank among the top 10 concerns expressed by members of the design community.

“The layout of a space, use of color, and the selection of furnishings, including details like door hardware, have an impact on our accessibility and safety as we age. Being able to educate professionals about the options and the outcomes of these choices makes the difference between someone thriving and someone at risk,” said Betsy Gabb, professor of interior design at UNL.

Mary Niemiec, NU associate vice president for distance education and director of University of Nebraska Online Worldwide, said: “One of our primary goals is to provide affordable access to students in fields that address current and future workforce demands. The new online certificate in gerontology with a concentration in interior design does just that. This is a unique and timely program tailored toward working professionals interested in additional training. I’m especially pleased that the program leverages the talents of faculty from multiple University of Nebraska campuses to benefit students and the economy.”

University of Nebraska Online Worldwide is NU’s university-wide distance education initiative, providing access to more than 100 online and blended degree, certificate and endorsement programs in 16 fields of study. The university will continue to grow its online programs as it works to expand access to more Nebraskans and others seeking a flexible, quality education. Online education is an especially good fit for the 290,000 Nebraskans who have completed some college but have not earned a degree.

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