The New World of Gerontology (Aging Services) and Why Now is the Time to Make it a Career

Recently I asked my young doctor, a board certified Geriatrician (serving patients 60 and older), why he chose to work with an older population. I was surprised by his answer. I expected he would say how much he likes older people, or how close he was to his grandparents, but instead, “Because they are so medically interesting,” he told me.

For ten years I taught a course, “Aging and Health,” which proved my doctor right—older people are interesting. More than that, they are widely diverse as they age physically, and as they approach aging emotionally and spiritually. For many years, I taught the course, “Social Gerontology,” and urged younger people to see the fascination of studying older people and their place in society. I often quoted Harry R. Moody, a philosopher and gerontologist, who wrote, “The character of a society can be found in the way their elders are treated” (Abundance of Life: Human Development Policies for an Aging Society).

Aging Services is a Growth Field

The field of Aging Services is highly relevant to our society, and especially so for those who pursue a career related to the aging population. For one thing we have growing numbers of older people in the world today, most notably the Baby Boomer Generation in the United States. By the year 2050 it is predicted that people 65 and up will be over 20% of the world population (as opposed to 12% at the turn of the 20th century). In the United States, the fastest growing segment of our population is people over the age of 85, of 90, even of 100.  How beneficial it will be to those who embrace the aging population in their occupation.

Seniors are Vibrant, in Need of Services, and Have Resources.

Older people are a vibrant and diverse set of people, ranging in age from 65 to 105, including the young old (65-74), the old (75-84), and the oldest old (85+). From all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, they are pioneers, living longer than ever before, enjoying immensely satisfying lives, and, above all, contributing to society. Seniors have a wide range of interests and passions, with needs for services of all kinds and possessing a wide range of abilities from independent to dependent. I say to people: Get to know us! We have money to spend, and for many, “The best is yet to come.”

Advance Your Current Career or Start a New One. 

How can you serve elders through a career related to Aging Services? In many ways no differently than the rest of our adult population who have a range of occupations and hobbies, who need different products and services. The only difference: older people have specific concerns unique to age. This is why the Certificate in Aging Services offered by Continuing & Career Education at Assumption College is an important tool. For example, a Certificate in Aging Services is valuable for financial professionals who want to communicate more effectively with their clients about planning for a future that is shaped differently than for their younger clients. A marketing specialist can learn more about the diverse interests of elders, whether retired or still working. Services that older people need are similar to those of the rest of the population, with, in many cases, more emphasis on leisure activities including travel, cultural opportunities, educational enrichment and volunteerism. Those in the law profession can heighten their understanding about working with seniors on wills/inheritances, establishing trust funds and prenuptial agreements (those late-in-life marriages!), and documents for creative new forms of housing.

Of course, there are countless career growth opportunities in fitness, wellness, the medical profession, and health of the aging that you might already expect.

When I think back to the undergraduate class I taught on “Aging and Society,” I remember being a cheerleader for Aging Studies. “This is the area of high employment growth,” I told my students. “Learn how to work with and to respect the elders of our society and your future career will be well-established.” So many times I saw students with a Certificate in Aging Services given the job before another qualified candidate.

Possessing knowledge and expertise about serving older individuals is, and will continue to be, a valued skill that won’t go out of style during this era of rapid growth in the aging population.

By Susan J. Perschbacher, Professor Emeritus and CCE Faculty, Assumption College

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