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Workshop 2009

What is Gerontology and Why Would YOU Need a Gerontologist? | Print |

Gerontology is typically defined as the study of the processes of aging, those multiple and interrelated changes that affect the biological, behavioral, and social aspects of life after 60 years. Gerontology is more than just the study of aging; it also includes providing service to older people and their families; this is the practice of gerontology. Gerontology is applying what is known in relevant and helpful ways to alleviate some of the challenges that frequently accompany old age, to aid in prevention of other problems, and to enhance the opportunities for personal growth in older years (Peterson, 1987).

Who can be called a Gerontologist? I hold to the distinction that a professional gerontologist is a person who has completed higher education, like my Master’s degree. But a gerontological specialist (bachelor level), the gerontological coordinator (associate level), and professionals in related fields include many persons involved in work with aging people. The emphasis of gerontology is on social consciousness and an applied commitment to aging persons. In real terms, those who work to serve the elderly population in many sectors are doing gerontological work that will benefit our society and our workforce. Since aging affects us all, an interest in gerontology benefits YOU.

Becoming knowledgeable about the growth of our senior population really makes sense. The explosion of Baby Boomers, who are set to hit “early old age” (65) in 2011, totals 78 million people. Yes, check your watches; this begins in just 4 short years, and has the potential for 40 more. This statistic alone has led many businesspeople to the realization that older persons are a very desirable consumer group, which will continue well into the future. New products and services, such as retirement planning, home health services, active senior living, travel and educational packages, and professional organizing—to name just a few—are gaining more visibility and more demand.

The Baby Boom Generation spans 18 years, born from 1946 through 1964, but turning 65 is just the beginning of it. Many of them will live another 18 years after turning 65 (average life expectancy is 77 years for men and 84 for women). But a good number of us will live longer than that, with the fastest growing population segment in America presently being the 85+ “very olds.” There are over 400 centenarians (100+) in Orange County, CA, alone. Many families and supportive friends today are interested in the quality of life of their aging loved ones. People are realizing that we all will be old.

My goal as a professional gerontologist is to bring you a greater understanding of yourself while you are approaching your elder years. You must read and arm yourself with research. Good information is the best defense against wrong thinking. We tend to deny many issues and the challenges of aging before we get there ourselves. You can make good decisions now that will help you age successfully, and in doing so, you will lead by example, teaching the younger generations to care for themselves now and how to care for you in your old age.

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