Our Why


Named in recognition of a $10 million gift from Betty Knoebel, widow of Denver food services pioneer Ferdinand "Fritz" Knoebel, the Institute will act as the overall umbrella for cooperation and partnerships between natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, the arts, lifelong learning, and the University's professional research and education programs in law, business, social work, and psychology. The laboratory hub of the Knoebel Institute, which opened in the summer of 2016, occupies its own floor in the $60 million complex housing the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. The Institute was founded in 2010 and has been giving pilot grants related to aging to DU faculty since its inception. The Institute was renamed to the Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging (KIHA) in the fall of 2015, and moved into its current location in August of 2016.

Background and Statement of Problem

Baby boomers will be over the age of 65 in 2029, and the first "baby boomers" turned 65 in 2011, with on average 10,000 persons turning 65 every day. This so-called "silver tsunami", consisting of an estimated 70 million Americans, threatens to overwhelm the US health care system, due to exponential increases in age-related diseases including Alzheimer's disease, movement disorders, blindness, hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, and many other age-related debilitating conditions. Many older adults have multiple, complex, chronic conditions which require multiple medications and rehabilitation as well as specialized health care and community support. While age-related disease continues to increase, there are dwindling resources available for older adults in terms of housing, transportation, technology, nutrition, rehabilitation, and education. There is a significant lack in terms of eldercare workforce and Labor needs in this area are expected to increase as the baby boomers increase in numbers, and with the increased life expectancy enjoyed by many Americans. At the same time, many populations, especially minority and rural populations, do not have access to specialized care and also have an increased risk for age-related conditions, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke.

Colorado Demographics

According to Elizabeth Garner of the Colorado State Demography Office, Colorado has increased its population, from 3 million inhabitants to 5 million inhabitants since 1980. There was a 16.9% increase in the Colorado population from 2000-2010. There is a significant gap in terms of labor supply versus demand in terms of aging health care and services in Colorado. It is expected that the greatest population growth will occur in the Front Range, followed by the Western slope. There has been a steady increase in the population > 65 in the last two decades, and this is expected to continue as the baby boomers grow older, leading to increased labor demand in aging care and services the next few decades. Data from the State Demography Office show that the population group that experienced the greatest growth (70%) in Colorado the last decade (2000-2010) is those over the age of 65. The greatest population growth was observed in the Hispanic population. At the same time, this population as well as other minority populations have lower average income, reduced access to care, and increased incidence of stroke and Alzheimer's disease and are in significant need of health care as well as education, prevention, and rehabilitation resources.

The "baby boomer" generation will greatly impact the health care industry and will affect how we perceive aging and retirement. This generation, much because of its size, has always been able to implement reforms as well as technical advances and policy changes. With these demographic changes come changes in household formation, income distribution, increased racial and ethnic diversity, and changes in the occupational mix. The baby boomers make up about 37% of the workforce and are staying longer in their jobs than ever before. Due to the aging workforce and increased elderly in the population, there will be an increased demand for housing units that meet the demands of the baby boomer generation. DU, with its wealth of education and research opportunities and its commitment to diversity and research, is poised to step into this field and offer vigorous training in all areas of elder care, research, hospitality, and services.


Workforce Shortfall

Those specializing in the care of older adults cannot meet the current demand let alone the projected needs for eldercare. A number of professions are needed to take care of older adults; these also include Labor in hospitality, advanced health care, elder law, rehabilitation, and transportation as well as meals, etc. There is overall an increased need in these areas, which can be met by increasing workforce development at DU and other universities in the area.