Aging Services is a high-growth field that includes every facet of providing services to the immense aging population. Here is an outline of the key areas of knowledge that will set you on a successful path in the profession.
The courses required for the Certificate in Aging Services through Continuing & Career Education at Assumption College follow the guidelines established by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE). This national group evaluates and oversees gerontology/aging studies programs across the country. According to AGHE, there are four required areas of focus for those training to work in the field of aging services: 1.) Aging in Society, 2.) Psychology of Aging, 3.) Aging and Health, and 4.) Policy and Aging.
Aging in Society
Aging in Society covers the variety and diversity of roles and lifestyles of older people. Students study families and relationships in later life, retirement patterns, new roles such as grandparent and volunteer or retiree, life styles and housing opportunities, leisure activities, intergenerational relationships, and areas of social life including religion and politics. Students examine social issues for older people, poverty and isolation, as well as ageism in society which hinders older people. As a professor, this is one of my favorite courses to teach because the material has the “aha!” quality of opening students’ minds to the complexity and richness of late life.
Psychology of Aging
Psychology of Aging focuses on problems and possibilities in late life brain function and mental attitude. Students learn about the three D’s: dementia, delirium and depression. They also study the complexity of brain capacity and how older people develop what is hard to define: wisdom. Mental health in older people is a major topic, as is positive psychology and the adaptive ability of seniors to foster and sustain positive outlooks in the face of the challenges of aging.
Aging and Health
While general attitudes accentuate declining health in late life, Aging and Health, informs and debunks stereotypical beliefs. Students learn about the unique and complicated physiological aspects of aging, but also about the remarkable adaptive quality of older people to their changing bodies. Students study the major physiological functions related to aging hearts and other organs, circulation, bones and joints, and glandular functions. They study trends in preventative health and of activity enabling elders to remain functional and fulfilled into late life. Modern science and medicine are largely responsible for expanding lifespan, and also for promoting quality of life in later years.
Policy and Aging
Policy and Aging challenges students to think about political processes and laws, including the Older Americans Act, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, among others that set the foundation for services to senior citizens, insuring them financial security, housing, protection from discrimination, and access to health care. Policies set the foundation for service provision to enable senior citizens to live well in later life.
Nicole Kanis, Director of Community Programs for the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging, graduated from Assumption College in 2009 with a Certificate in Gerontology/Aging Studies. She went on to earn her Masters of Science in Management of Aging Services at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She says that the four courses “work together to bridge all aspects of aging and the range of the field in working with older people.”
Nicole found these courses directly relate to her current position. In Policy and Aging she was encouraged to think about change on a policy level, and she followed this up with an internship in policy and planning for elders. Aging and Society is useful to her work because of the focus on the social aspect of daily life for elders, and on the way that society looks at aging. In Aging and Health she gained important working knowledge about the health and biological changes of senior citizens. Psychology of Aging is less relevant to her current role, but she stresses that all four courses are important, each one flowing into the other, adding to the student’s comprehensive understanding of aging and elders.
After these four core courses, the Certificate in Aging Services offers elective courses in two tracks—Direct Service Aging Care Trackand Aging Administration Track—in which students proceed to build expertise in their specific area of interest. Learn more about the Aging Services program at the Continuing & Career Education website.