What is Gerontology?
Gerontology is the scientific study of the processes and problems of aging. A report published by the National Research Council on Chemical Toxicology and Aging define Gerontology as all aspects, such as biological, clinical, psychological, sociological, legal, economic, and political related to the issues of aging. This field of study also deals with the diagnosis, management, and prevention of medical problems that are associated with senility and aging.
The University of Georgia defines gerontology as a study that focuses on the scientific studies of processes associated with the changes in the human body from middle age to the golden years to achieve a quality of life. It also includes a multidisciplinary investigation of societal changes resulting from an elderly population and ranging from the humanities, such as history, philosophy, and literature, to economics. Gerontology also involves applications and experience of this knowledge to policies and programs to promote healthy aging. Healthy aging for elderly adults is the main goal of 21st-century Gerontology.
What Does A Gerontologist Do?
A gerontologist is a medical professional who focuses on research and treatment of conditions related to the aging process. The aging process is when a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage over time decreases the physical and mental capacity of an individual, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The World Health Organization (WHO) also states that aging is also associated with other life transitions like retirement, relocation to more suitable housing, and the death of friends and partners.
A gerontologist is an expert on the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, psychological, and societal effects of the aging process on the human body. The aging process can result in several health behaviors and conditions, such as hearing loss, cataracts, refractive errors, back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, and dementia.
A gerontologist can develop a career in various professions, such as art therapy, casework management, education, geriatric advocacy, care management, grant writing, grief counseling, health education, mental health counseling, nursing, nursing home management, occupational therapy, pharmacy work, public policy, rehabilitation, research, senior housing, social work, and wellness care.
How To Become A Gerontologist?
To become a gerontologist, a person must finish a master’s degree in Gerontology. A master’s degree in gerontology qualifies a person to hold the title of a gerontologist. In addition, it takes two to three years to finish a master’s degree in Gerontology. A master’s degree in Gerontology focuses on programs that provide students with further advanced research and leadership skills. Aside from research and leadership skills, the foundational coursework contains several specializations in subfields. These specializations in subfields include long-term care administration, aging studies, mental health, and grief care management. Students who finish a master’s degree in Gerontology can assume positions that require research, strategic planning, and leadership. These positions include medical and health services managers, planners, administrative services managers, practitioners, rehabilitation counselors, occupational therapists, and research analysts.
Becoming a gerontologist can start by obtaining an associate degree in Gerontology. An associated degree in Gerontology requires students two years’ worth of instruction to learn the basics of the biological, psychological, and sociological factors in the aging process. Students who finish an associate degree in Gerontology can work as a home and personal aid, a medical assistant, or a social or a human service assistant.
Gerontologist can also begin by getting a bachelor’s degree in Gerontology. A bachelor’s degree in Gerontology requires students to complete four years of study that includes an internship or practicum. Students who completed a bachelor’s degree in Gerontology can handle entry-level or mid-level positions as community service managers, social workers, community health workers, or certified occupational therapy assistants. Other positions such as marketing coordinator, program coordinator, and life enrichment specialist, can also be handled by people who finished a bachelor’s degree in Gerontology.
Gerontology also includes a doctoral degree. A doctoral degree in Gerontology typically takes three to seven years, which includes a year of research and a dissertation on a specialty. Students taking a doctoral degree in Gerontology are prepared to gain expertise in gerontology theory and practice before choosing a specialty. Students who finished a doctoral degree in Gerontology can handle positions like physicians, geriatric specialists, post secondary teachers, researchers, clinical practitioners, and administrators.
There are several roles of a gerontologist. The first role involves clinical and laboratory research. Clinical and laboratory research involves activities such as conducting laboratory experiments and organizing longitudinal studies in order to get a better understanding of the biological processes related to aging. This also includes investigation of the living tissue to learn more about cellular development and aging and also find out ways to slow down physical and mental health deterioration. In addition, testing of new medications on laboratory animals and clinical trial participants is also part of this role to determine their efficacy and safety.
The next role of a gerontologist involves geriatric medicine specialization. Geriatric medicine specialization involves the diagnosis and treatment of common conditions for older adults like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and osteoporosis. Physicians, who are experts in geriatric medicine, prescribe medications and educate their patients and patients’ families on methods to better handle aging-related issues. This role also involves having physical therapy sessions or regular checkups to monitor the patient’s condition.
Another role of gerontologists involves education and awareness efforts. Education and awareness efforts involve writing informational books and pamphlets, putting on clinics for doctors, and speaking to the public to raise awareness about pressing issues. Sociologists, psychologists, and physicians are experts who can identify common problems encountered by older adults and also raise funds for gerontological research on Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions.
One more role of gerontologists involves administrative policy-making. Administrative policy-making involves researching relevant issues that affect senior citizens, like access to healthcare and public services, and advising politicians on new policy creations. Gerontological policy experts in administrative policy-making conduct surveys, organize statistics and create detailed reports about the quality of services for elderly adults within their communities. In addition, they also lobby for better laws regarding nursing homes and assisted living facilities and the allocation of resources for underfunded programs.
Yes, some gerontologists go to med schools, but not all gerontologists go to med school. Going to medical school is not a requirement to become a gerontologist. Gerontologists are professionals that come from different backgrounds and fields of expertise, like psychology, sociology, public health, economics, political science, anthropology, biology, and medicine. These different fields of expertise make Gerontology achieve a multidisciplinary focus on elderly care.
Yes, gerontologists are in demand because the large population of baby boomers in the United States is in its golden years. Baby boomers are people who were born from 1946 to 1964. According to the data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of American people aged 65 and older has increased from 3.1 million in 1900 to over 56 million in 2020. In addition, by the year 2060, this number will further grow to 95 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Census Bureau is a federal agency that provides current facts and figures about the American people and the economy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) mentions that in 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older outnumbered children younger than five years. In addition, between 2015 and 2050, the ratio of the world’s population of people over 60 years will double from 12% to 22%. The rise of the aging population, rate of growth, and life expectancy lead to a huge demand for gerontologists, who are experts in the study of the aging process.
There are several differences between Gerontology and Geriatrics. The first difference is the focus and view. The focus and view of Geriatrics are on identifying and treating the physical aspects and medical aspects of aging and common conditions like vision and hearing loss, cognitive functions, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart and lung function, and other physical ailments of older adults. On the other hand, Gerontology tackles the multidisciplinary focus of older adult care. The multidisciplinary approach of elderly care tackles not only the physical effects and health outcomes of aging but also the social and psychological effects.
Another difference between Gerontology and Geriatrics is the application of treatment or older adult care. The application of treatment and care for Geriatrics is centered on treating age-related diseases and extending the life expectancy of aging adults. Gerontology, on the other hand, includes end-of-life care or palliative care for patients and also grief therapy for their families.
The next difference between Gerontology and Geriatrics is the training required. The training required to become a Geriatrician involves completion of medical school and residency in Geriatrics. For Gerontology, not all professionals came from medical backgrounds. Gerontology requires an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in different fields of Gerontology like biology, psychology, sociology, and others.
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