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3 Universities Leading the Way in Senior Care

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on April 20, 2017 10:30 AM

Like most employers today, colleges and universities are increasingly challenged with responding to staff and faculty needs as they care for their aging loved ones.

Meeting these senior care needs is not only essential to attracting and retaining the very best in their fields, it’s also critical to keeping the entire community engaged and focused on the work, teaching and research that drives an institution’s overall success.

It continues to be a game of high stakes for all employers, including those in higher education, with two in every five working Americans actively caring for an aging parent – and the numbers growing.  Tens of billions of dollars is lost annually due to the related stress, absenteeism, presenteeism and resulting lower productivity.

So, what are colleges and universities doing in response to the very real senior care crisis their staff and faculty face?

Here are three institutions leading the way in providing innovative, comprehensive senior care solutions to their employee communities.  

The MIT Work-Life Center:
A recipient of the of the WorldatWork Work-Life Seal of Distinction 2017, the MIT Work-Life Center has long been a leader in work-life integration for its employees, including the senior care benefits and services it offers.

In addition to providing benefits-eligible employees with free access to in-depth phone consultations with licensed geriatric social workers, they also offer several dates each semester for scheduling in-person consultations. These personalized consultations are offered at both their Work-Life Center on campus, as well as at a nearby off-campus location where building facilities provide easier parking and access for those faced with mobility challenges.  To meet the demands of a diverse workforce with family members spread across the U.S., these professionals assist employees in finding care and developing plans for adults and seniors nationwide.

Additional services include caregiver support groups that meet seasonally, backup care resources for both adult and senior family members, a regular seminar series on current senior care topics, as well as a newsletter with helpful, monthly tips. 

In addition to offering information and access to their extensive services and resources via their website, they house a work-life lending library – on-site - that includes books on aging, elder care, illness, grief and loss, as well as trauma and crisis. This encourages employees to connect with work-life staff in person, and further communicate how they can help.

The MSU Work-Life Office:
Established in 2016, the MSU Work-Life Office is dedicated to honoring the work and personal lives of the university’s employees, serving as a “one-stop destination” for all their career and professional questions throughout each of life’s stages. In their own words, they strive to “offer guidance and create synergy between those responsibilities.”

When it came to senior care, MSU fully realized the breadth and scope of their diverse employee population’s senior care needs when surveying them in conjunction with researching new child care benefits providers.  With the help of data gathered in the survey, as well as qualitative feedback, they implemented several successful senior care programs.

RELATED: It’s Time to Get Serious About Senior Care at Work

Like MIT’s Work-Life Center, MSU provides consultation, referral and personal support for those caring for an aging relative. Not only do they offer local resources for seniors living near campus, they also offer long-distance solutions.

They stay connected to and aware of the issues facing their employee community through a free Brown Bag lunch series that offer perspectives on aging, as well as topics including Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drug coverage, Alzheimer’s and related dementias, offsite and in-home care options, legal and tax services, mental health services and caregiver support.

Connections, knowledge- and experience-sharing is facilitated between employees through an “Eldercare listserv.”

An overview of their senior care benefits and resources is readily available to all employees online, along with several links to helpful sites. They also communicate their offerings to employees in a simple, easy-to-print, one-page PDF.

Northwestern University:

Also a recipient of the WorldatWork Work-Life Seal of Distinction 2017, Northwestern University offers comprehensive work-life benefits and resources, including senior care.

Northwestern supports 8,500 staff and faculty across three campuses, and like most institutions in higher education, many fall into the 40-60 age bracket, or “Sandwich Generation.”  This demographic faces complex and evolving care needs, including senior care for loved ones both in and out of state.

RELATED: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Sandwich Generation

Through formal surveying and qualitative feedback, Northwestern knew their employees wanted help with stress management, as well as access to the best senior care resources and information.  The University’s Work-Life Resources Program set a goal to help these employees stay productive at work while successfully managing these care demands. 

Northwestern built their senior care services with each of these needs in mind. The Senior Care Connections program provides access to advisors who can make referrals specific to a family member’s needs, as well as offer expertise on legal and financial issues for caregivers.

They circulate monthly senior care tips to their community, as well as offer links to several helpful, local and national resources on their website.

Whether you’re building new or expanding upon a work-life integration program for your institution, we hope these leader snapshots have provided you with both a framework to reference, and some innovative ideas to feel inspired by.

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.