What is Gerontology?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson
Social gerontology studies the day-to-day lives of senior citizens.
Social gerontology studies the day-to-day lives of senior citizens.

Gerontology is the study of physical, mental and social changes that take place as a person ages. Although they are often confused with each other, it is not the same as geriatrics, the branch of medicine that studies the diseases and other health concerns of older people. There are several aspects of gerontology that are important parts of study of aging and the aging process.

Gerontology has enhanced the quality of life for many seniors.
Gerontology has enhanced the quality of life for many seniors.

Biogerontology is the study of how a person changes physically as they age. Studies have shown that aging is a natural process of the body breaking down, and that many late-age health problems are unavoidable. Biomedical gerontology, a field of biogerontology, studies ways to slow down the process of aging, extending life spans.

Scientists working in biogerontology are trying to understand how and why the body ages. The changes in the mind and body as individuals grow older, leading to dementia, osteoporosis, organ failure, and slower healing times, may be the result of cellular changes, but scientists are still not sure when or why this happens. Research in this area may lead to advances in the way age-related problems are treated or prevented.

Gerontologists need specialized empathy and listening skills when interacting with elderly patients and their caregivers.
Gerontologists need specialized empathy and listening skills when interacting with elderly patients and their caregivers.

Another field of gerontology is social gerontology, the study of the actual day-to-day lives of senior citizens. This field is responsible for taking care of the needs of older individuals through education and research. Social gerontologists are nurses, social care workers, psychologists, and social scientists who are concerned with advancing the causes associated with gerontology.

A gerontologist must be familiar with legal topics such as advance directives, which specify how a patient would like to be treated in the event of incapacitation.
A gerontologist must be familiar with legal topics such as advance directives, which specify how a patient would like to be treated in the event of incapacitation.

One of the major achievements in the field of social gerontology is in the improvements that have been made in the lives of senior citizens. Most communities have organizations that protect the rights of local senior citizens. These organizations help senior citizens with legal rights and housing and financial concerns, as well as providing meals and recreational activities. They may match elderly community members with volunteers to help with home repairs, shopping, lawn care, and other daily tasks that the elderly may have difficulty doing themselves.

Advances in gerontology have improved both the lifespan and the quality of life of many seniors. This has led to a huge increase in the number of careers in the field. For those who may be interested in a career in gerontology, many colleges offer both bachelor and graduate programs. Classes offered in most programs include Women and Aging, Gerotechnology, Sociology of Aging, and Aging and Social Services. Careers in gerontology include health care positions, education, leisure and recreation, administration, and housing services, amongst others.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments

Crispety

I have a friend that is an occupational therapist that is looking to get a gerontology Masters in order to broaden her career opportunities. With the growing aging population I think that this is a smart move.

She said that she could get a job at a nursing home, a rehab center for long term needs, a government agency or even a retirement community or assisted living center. The employment options are a lot broader. I know that a lot of nurses also pursue gerontology degrees for the same reason. They want to be able to work in a variety of settings.

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    • Social gerontology studies the day-to-day lives of senior citizens.
      Social gerontology studies the day-to-day lives of senior citizens.
    • Gerontology has enhanced the quality of life for many seniors.
      Gerontology has enhanced the quality of life for many seniors.
    • Gerontologists need specialized empathy and listening skills when interacting with elderly patients and their caregivers.
      Gerontologists need specialized empathy and listening skills when interacting with elderly patients and their caregivers.
    • A gerontologist must be familiar with legal topics such as advance directives, which specify how a patient would like to be treated in the event of incapacitation.
      A gerontologist must be familiar with legal topics such as advance directives, which specify how a patient would like to be treated in the event of incapacitation.