Education - Page 8 - Ask Margit, from page 1

Education
- Page 8
Ask Margit, from page 1
tology and aging services; Towson University has a bachelor of science and a minor; and McDaniel College has an undergraduate minor, graduate programs and certifications for professionals.

Towson University’s course catalogue also touts its program as the way into a huge variety of jobs upon graduation: “Gerontology, the study of human aging, is increasingly becoming an important field with applications in virtually every industry and profession, from health and wellness to business, education and recreation.” At this institution and others throughout the state of Maryland, undergraduate and graduate degrees, programs and certifications are available so no matter what your passion, focusing on the gerontological aspect will ensure your education and skill set will be in demand for all your working life.

Emiko Takagi, Ph.D., associate professor in the gerontology program, says, “Towson’s strength is that it exposes all levels of students to gerontology. Even those who don’t know what they want to do after they graduate can visualize and grasp the many pathways to incorporate working with seniors into their studies.” Undergraduates at Towson can receive an undergraduate degree in gerontology or have it as minor, integrating it with another major. Its gerontology program was started in 1998, the first such undergraduate degree program offered within the University System of Maryland; available in person or online, it leads to a bachelor of science degree.

The basic undergraduate course, Gerontology 101, provides a comprehensive picture of this older population, starting with characteristics, demographics and statistics, health care, trends, and pensions; it then covers more specific information including how seniors see themselves (starting with the fact that they don’t like being called seniors), the psychology of aging, and the wide range of personalities.

“We want the students to really see each person as an individual.” says Takagi, “Every cohort of older adults is different; students have to be careful to be forward thinking and cutting edge and recognize that the people they are learning about, and potentially working with or for, are not the same as their grandparents. It makes what we discuss in class more realistic, more real world.” An option in the course work may involve interviewing baby boomers or a 120-hour internship so that they get a true understanding of their individuality.

McDaniel College is the home of The Center for the Study of Aging, under the direction of Diane Martin, Ph.D., coordinator of the school’s gerontology programs. Martin points out that although gerontology is only available as a minor, when combined with any major McDaniel offers, it can lead to a job in that field whether it’s music, psychology, sociology or business administration.

McDaniel College is one of only 12 institutions nationally to receive the Program of Merit designation from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, which gives gerontology and health professions programs a “stamp of excellence” that they can use to verify program quality.

When asked why someone should study human aging, Martin responds quickly. “First, it’s about job security. With the diversity in the aging population, there are limitless opportunities. No matter what you do, it will help older adults improve and achieve a higher quality of life. Our programs are designed to create gerontologists so they have the skills to work with people throughout the aging process. That can last for decades.”

She adds, “Students, particularly 18- to 21-year-old undergraduates, are afraid of working with older people 65-85 because they have the impression that they’re all disabled in some way or that the only jobs working with this age group are in nursing homes. That’s so inaccurate. Gerontology helps us understand how to live a healthy life as people age. It then provides guidelines for the future to their family members and the students as well.

“If, for instance, you’re a psychology student, you can help boomers come to terms with how they are aging, something to which they often don’t admit. Many are working into their 70s and beyond. But, right now, the highest suicide population is white males six months after retirement who had defined themselves by what they did professionally. Thus, there’s the need to address the counseling aspect.”

McDaniel also offers a post-graduate certificate for professionals already working with seniors, such as nurses, attorneys and social workers, to supplement their undergraduate and/ or graduate degrees. And all its graduate classes are accessible online.

This is only a quick glance on why you should consider including the study of gerontology in your education. Consider how nice it will be to always being in demand for skills that will help multiple generations because your knowledge will have an impact on those aging and the generations that follow – including yours. How people age is changing. Be a part of it. •