The study of gerontology focuses on how people age. This emcompasses the mental, physical and psychological effects of aging over time. Gerontology is a relatively new field, first being organized in the 1940s and focusing on three set phases of aging. Each phase touches on the biological effects of aging, including how the body does or doesn’t function over time. It then incorporates the emotional effects disease or illness can have on a person as they age. Since people are continuing to live longer and the Baby Boomer generation is reaching retirement age, the field of gerontology continues to grow.
If you decide to move forward with this course of study, you’ll have a variety of work environments to choose from, including an assisted living facility, nursing home, or hospital unit specializing in health care for seniors. You might also work with older people at their homes, assisting them with daily chores, helping them take their medications, or even just providing companionship.
You could also work in other parts of the public sector, including working with non-profit companies or the government to ensure better care or education is available to older adults. Depending on what path you choose, you could spend your time with older individuals, taking care of their daily needs and understanding how their health conditions affect their life. From there you could develop new ways to serve this population. Typical job titles could include social worker, social and health services assistants, home health aids, or health service manager, to name a few.
Other gerontologists specialize in counseling older adults, which means they listen to their clients and provide ways for them to deal with the issues they face or work with their doctors to prescribe medications that could help their day-to-day symptoms.
Depending on the career field you choose, you may also need extra certifications before you can begin working. For example, the National Association of Gerontologists has a voluntary credentialing program you can complete once you graduate. Other specific positions, such as social work, require a certification or license to practice. Be sure to discuss these details with an advisor or potential employers as you work toward your degree. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that social workers earned an average of $46,300 in early 2009.