CareForce's Innovative Approach

Enabling older adults to live with vitality, grace and dignity.


  • Driving a Need for Change

    CareForce Innovation partners have long been committed to serving older adults in ways that support their goals of living with vitality, grace and dignity. Fulfilling that commitment is more challenging now than ever as our systems for supporting the housing, care and daily living needs of seniors were designed for a different era. Today, the massive older adult population, fewer family caregivers, increasing care costs, shrinking government budgets, poor retirement savings and healthcare workforce shortages are contributing to a system and families in chaos.

    Seventy percent of people age 65 and older will require some form of institutional, home or community-based Long Term Services and Support (LTSS). With Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and 10,000 Americans turning age 65 daily, the number of older adults needing services is expected to more than double. Couples can expect to spend an estimated $245,000 on healthcare in retirement as half will have at least one spouse live beyond age 90 and three quarters of older adults will have at least one chronic health condition. As demand skyrockets, how should new care delivery models be designed to enable us to serve many more older adults?

    A 2013 study by the Federal Reserve on American households approaching retirement found one in five has no retirement savings. Median savings is just $14,500. The overwhelming majority of LTSS are provided at no cost by family members and friends, valued at $450 billion annually. In 2009, about 66 million adults provided unpaid care, which cost them an estimated 10 percent of median household income and employers $34 billion in lost productivity. As our parents age, how might we adapt to better promote the health and wellbeing of older adults and those who care for them?

    Elder and home care top the list of fastest growing U.S. occupations over the next decade. Sadly, workforce shortages are already causing providers to decline residents. An estimated 1.6 million home, nursing and personal care assistants are needed by 2020, when this direct care occupation will become the nation’s largest. CareForce partners alone need an estimated 20,000 more registered nurses, 9,000 more licensed practical nurses and 4,000 clinical leaders over the next 15 years to serve elders. Historically, senior care has been the least preferred work setting among nursing students, which result in 85 percent turnover among nurses in their first year of employment in Minneapolis-St. Paul senior organizations. How can we redefine the education and career experiences of health professions students and employees to grow the eldercare workforce?


  • Called in Service to Older Adults

    Innovation occurs when there is a burning platform driving a need for change. Unprecedented growth of the older adult population, along with their care and living needs, present one of today’s brightly burning platforms. Aging and innovation are not a new combination. In fact, they have long sparked development of medical devices, treatments, and drugs. While these are important, other kinds of service system innovation are needed.

    CareForce Innovation will innovate at the intersection where health professionals, elders and caregivers are educated, served and supported to enable older adults to age with vitality, grace and dignity. CareForce Innovation will draw upon the collective assets of its founding partners to provide a platform for learning, improvement and innovation focused on four pervasive questions.

    • How should health professions education and training be designed to grow the eldercare workforce and develop its capacity to transform systems and support elders in sustaining vibrant, meaningful lives?
    • How should senior care and living approaches be adapted to better promote the health and wellbeing of older adults and those who care for them?
    • How should innovative, new care delivery models be designed to enable us to serve more older adults, better and more cost effectively?
    • How should CareForce Innovation harness the collective assets of its partners for the benefit of older adults and those who care for them?

  • Unique Capacity to Learn, Improve and Innovate

    While many organizations have ideas to respond to unprecedented growth and changing expectations of older adults, CareForce Innovation offers a platform to explore the effectiveness of ideas, their translation into practice, and their potential to be spread regionally and nationally. Three founding partners leverage their collective assets to form CareForce’s platform for innovation:

    Benedictine Health System (BHS), a top 10 largest U.S. Catholic senior care provider established in 1985, provides a continuum of housing, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation service options to 5,500 older adults in 35 communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois.

    Presbyterian Homes and Services (PHS), the 4th largest senior living organization in the nation established in 1955, provides a similar continuum of service options to 25,000 older adults in 42 senior living communities across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

    St. Catherine University, a Catholic university established in 1906, provides research and innovation infrastructure and serves 2,587 future health professionals through 32 degree programs from associate to doctoral levels in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and online nationally.

    Through CareForce Innovation, the partners use an intrapreneur model, harnessing the expertise of their practitioners, researchers, students, elders and caregivers in studies and demonstrations on the frontlines where health professions education, senior care and senior living intersect – within classrooms, care environments and communities across six Midwestern states.

    CareForce Innovation’s methods emphasize human design thinking, applied research and implementation science. These approaches engage those affected by change in shaping new ways of working that are feasible, sustainable, transferable and truly realize the CareForce mission of promoting health and well-being and increasing care and living options for older adults and those who care for them.

    Members from each organization form a Partners’ Council, which sets priorities, shares in costs, raises funds and invites broader collaborators to seed exploration of new, more effective approaches.

    A lean team of University R&D staff manages CareForce Innovation’s operations and leverages the University’s capacity for interdisciplinary research, human subjects compliance, knowledge management, dissemination and interprofessional education.