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.
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.
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.
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.