- the study of the aging process and individuals as they grow from midlife through later life, including the study of physical, mental and social changes.
- the investigation of the changes in society resulting from our aging population.
- the application of this knowledge to practice, programs, and policies.
- an interdisciplinary field including professionals such as physicians, social workers, nurses, psychologists, sociologists, physical and occupational therapists, architects, audiologists, pharmacists, and more.
Why Study Gerontology?
Populations around the world are aging. This means that people are living longer and the number of older people is incpreasing. These trends are evident in American society, as well as in many countries around the world.
In the US:
- in 2010, 13% of the total population (more than forty million people) was over the age of 65.
- by 2030, 19% of the total population (more than seventy-two million people) will be over the age of 65
- in 2010, 13.4% of the population was over the age of 65.
- by 2030, 19.2% of the population (more than one million people) will be over the age of 65.
These growth trends will result in a demand for professionals with knowledge and expertise in aging. Expanded career opportunities in gerontology are forecasted in many disciplines and professions.
A Stimulating, Challenging Field
The field of aging is very diverse, offering many different employment opportunities. This diversity exists, in part, because older persons are very different from each other in many ways. As we age, our experiences, needs, resources, and abilities vary according to such factors as gender, race, ethnicity, and economic status.
For example, many older persons today are very healthy and active and wish to remain actively engaged. Professionals working with these older people might be providing educational opportunities, volunteer activities, or recreation and leisure programs.
Some older persons are frail and less active. Jobs that relate to these more vulnerable elders might be in long-term care or other healthcare settings or in agencies that deliver services to older persons.
Other older adults may experience mental health problems. Many of these problems, such a depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are very treatable. There are also a growing number of individuals with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia. Gerontological professionals often work in in-patient settings and out-patients clinics to provide treatment, counseling, and support to these individuals and their family members.
The relative newness of the field means that there are opportunities for innovative ideas and new programs and products. Many people have started their own businesses, such as coordinating home health care or consulting with businesses and corporations about how to develop services or design products that would attract older consumers.
Making a Difference
People working in aging report great satisfaction in addressing the challenges of those who are growing older. They help maintain quality life; enjoy the wit, wisdom, and creativity of older people; and strengthen families as they care for their older members.