Innovations That Inspire

Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living

Recognition Year(s): 2023
School: Carson College of Business, Washington State University
Location: United States

The Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living is a transdisciplinary, global institute that develops leaders and insights in the business of aging for the well-being of residents and those who serve them.

Nancy Swanger, Associate Dean of Inter-College Partnerships, Carson College of Business, Washington State University

Call to Action

Roughly 60,000 people turn 65 each day and may not be able to age in place at their own home. As those people move into communities better able to serve their social, physical, mental, and emotional needs, the number of new employees necessary to provide care and service will be well over a million. The aging baby boomers will put different demands on the senior housing industry—not only in terms of sheer numbers, but also in terms of living space expectations.

The senior living product of today will not serve nor satisfy the next generation of residents. The Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living (GCISL) is poised for this rising opportunity. The GCISL is the result of a grassroots, industry-driven initiative seeking opportunities for collaboration between senior living operators and the Washington State University (WSU) School of Hospitality Business Management, established in 1932. Operators of these communities serve residents in independent living, assisted living, and memory care, with the valued-added proposition of socialization in a congregate setting. As such, the operators seek leaders with a service and hospitality mindset.

The departments and operations in senior living communities closely parallel those in full-service hotels; thus, the partnership between industry and the WSU hospitality school makes perfect sense. Through innovative curriculum, research-informed best practices, and continual dialogue with all stakeholders, the GCISL will be the thought leader in the business of aging. The work of the institute has the potential for tremendous societal impact, improving the quality of life for an aging population worldwide.

Innovation Details

With the growing demographic of people aged 65 and over, the GCISL is the right product, for the right time, for the right reasons. Pillars of the program include the following:

  • Education: A transdisciplinary, undergraduate major and minor in senior living management will develop graduates who are ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of this growing segment. The online, on-demand professional development certificate serves those wanting to advance in the industry or those wanting to enter it.
  • Data Analytics: The faculty from across campuses and disciplines will collaborate with industry partners and students to solve real-world problems.
  • Partnerships: Collaboration with the industry to maintain curricular relevance and to become the thought leader in this space will positively contribute to the quality of life for all stakeholders—residents, families, employees, owners, and the broader world community.

Through the GCISL, a transdisciplinary approach to the education, research, and service of stakeholders associated with aging will become the cutting-edge, world-renowned hub of all senior living initiatives. While there are universities focusing on various aspects of this industry, the GCISL was the first program embedded within a hospitality school at an AACSB-accredited institution. The Carson College of Business formally announced the GCISL and its related initiatives on October 30, 2019. The goal is to be the program of choice for students and industry seeking an operationally focused senior living management program supported by a solid business foundation—for workforce development, solutions-based research, and transformational service.

Innovation Impact

To educate the next generation of leaders, drive data analytics solutions, and foster partnerships, the GCISL was launched with a 2.5 million USD naming gift. Key outcomes to date include:

  • A major and minor in senior living management. The major was launched in the fall of 2020, the minor in the fall of 2021. The program has 15 declared majors/minors to date.
  • Delivery of the introductory senior living management course to more than 550 students since 2021.
  • Student opportunities for travel awards to attend industry conferences, applying theory through internships and earning hours toward the 1,000 required for graduation, and earning scholarships.
  • Launch of our online, on-demand professional development certificate program.
  • Active engagement of industry partners and faculty in program development.  
  • Eighteen students enrolled in the certificate since launch in fall 2020.
  • Nearly 30 faculty fellows from across the WSU system, other universities, and international scholars conducting research in aging, inclusive of students, industry operators, vendors, and residents (pilot projects funded by the GCISL).
  • Three journal publications under review, plus three additional conference paper publications.
  • Development of a digital textbook, Rethinking the Business of Aging.
  • Development of industry-sponsored/grant-funded research projects.
  • Plans to explore creation of a transdisciplinary, open-access, peer-reviewed journal
  • Creation of a repository of community residents willing to participate in research (in development).
  • U.N. recognition of Nancy Swanger, founder and director of the GCISL, for her leadership.

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