The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services has awarded UMass Boston Gerontology a $410,000 grant to pilot a program aimed at strengthening the aging services workforce. The innovative program, a collaboration with four Boston-area aging services agencies, is designed to offer training and paid internships for undergraduate students along with leadership development for promising professionals in the field. The program is one of 85 grants awarded by the Commonwealth, from more than 470 applications, for a total investment of $46 million in workforce recruitment, retention, and training in the human services field (see EOHHS press release).

The pilot program, Pathways to Building an Aging Services Workforce, draws on many of UMass Boston’s strengths—including the university’s racially and culturally diverse student population and a long, successful tradition of collaborating with community partners—as well as the deep expertise of the gerontology faculty. Offered in partnership with the aging services agencies, the program aims to lead directly to employment in this fast-growing sector.   

“We are facing a critical shortage of care managers in the aging services field while our population of older adults keeps growing,” says Ellen Birchander, director of the Management of Aging Services (MAS) master’s program at UMass Boston, who will lead the new program. “This grant allows us to provide training and support for people to move into and advance in the field. We need more leaders who are passionate about serving older adults and their communities. And as the aging population grows more diverse, culturally and linguistically, our partners will need more diverse staff and leadership to meet the changing needs of older adults.”

In the spring of 2023, the program will select the first cohort of 12 UMass Boston undergraduates with an interest in working with older adults. The students will receive on-campus training and work as paid interns at the partner agencies. The intent is for the students to be qualified upon graduation to work as care managers, a role that includes thoroughly assessing individuals seeking assistance, then arranging for services with contracted providers and monitoring and assessing that care. The program will select a second cohort of 12 undergraduates in the spring of 2024.

At the same time, two promising employees from each of the partner agencies will be offered leadership training through the MAS program, helping them to advance in the field. The fully online MAS program is designed for working professionals, offering flexible scheduling and the opportunity to build connections in aging services. The MAS certificate and master’s degree programs count more than 400 graduates, many of whom now serve as national leaders in the field of aging. As with the internships, the pilot program will fund two cohorts of employees for a total of 16 employees receiving professional development.

The partnering agencies in the workforce pilot program include Mystic Valley Elder Services, Boston Senior Home Care, Ethos, and Central Boston Elder Services. They are four of the 25 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth, organizations that provide a range of direct and protective services for people aged 60 years and older.

“We are excited by the opportunity that this grant provides to serve the community and address an urgent need,” says Edward Alan Miller, professor and chair, Department of Gerontology. “This collaboration with the participating ASAPs can serve as a model for how educational institutions can engage community partners to bolster the ranks and diversity of the aging services workforce in light of population aging.”

As one of the world’s oldest and most reputable programs, UMass Boston Gerontology is known for our emphasis on the interrelationships of research, social science, and policy along with an equity lens on the pervasive disparities in the aging population. The department offers a doctorate, two master’s degrees including the MAS program, a graduate certificate, and an undergraduate degree and certificate program. Our Gerontology Institute provides opportunities for research and community engagement. For more information on our gerontology degrees or the aging services internship opportunity, contact Martin Hansen-Verma,