Alumni Spotlight - Ginger Ragan
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Describe your career path and current occupation.
After the completion of graduate school, I worked in sales and marketing for senior living communities for 5 years selling their campus expansions. That experience was valuable because I learned the pros/cons and contractual differences between different retirement living community options. Knowing that about 97% of older adults choose to "age in place", I transitioned my professional focus to optimizing lifestyle options for those who want to continue to live in their own homes. Currently, I am Gerontologist for Bay Aging and Regional Coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association. In both capacities, I cover the same 10 county service area of 2,600 miles in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck area of Virginia. Several of these counties are home to some of the oldest living people in the US. I have the great honor and privilege of connecting people to care, education, and support while working as an advocate with elected officials to bring about legislative reform that impacts older people and their families.
How did you become interested in this field?
I became interested in this field over 10 years ago while I was assisting my great grandfather in navigating the aging network in his last months of life. That time was very difficult and confusing for the entire family to understand the differences in senior living facilities, insurance coverage, and medical providers. It opened my eyes and heart to a calling for me to work in this field, helping others understand their options, minimizing their stress and optimizing their opportunities, and feeling good about the decisions they make.
What do you like best about the type of work you do?
I make a difference in people's lives every day. No two days are the same. I am constantly learning and networking so that I can be a better resource and support to others. Likewise, I am humbled by the wisdom and patience of older people.
What was most memorable about your experiences in your VCU graduate program?
While I enrolled in graduate school to retool for a new direction in my career, the experience ended up transforming my life, how I view my aging process and the endless lifestyle options for later life.
What advice would you give current and prospective students about pursuing a graduate degree at VCU?
The most valuable class I took while pursuing a graduate degree in gerontology was ethics, though I did not realize its value at the time. While working in senior living and being faced with frequent ethical dilemmas, understanding how to navigate those dilemmas is crucial. The senior service industry is in dire need of reform and guidance from gerontological evidence-based practices and theories. While reform is exciting and necessary, it is challenging to bring about. It is deeply rewarding knowing that my work has such a positive impact on the lives of others.