What is Gerontology?
Feb 22, 2015 | 9:00 am
A Study of the Aging Process
Gerontology is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects associated with aging. It is not to be confused with geriatrics, which is the study of the diseases of older adults. Gerontologists assist elderly people in leading active lives while remaining in their homes, coordinating their healthcare with the individual requirements.
The number of fields within gerontology can seem surprising. The studies include researchers and practitioners in the fields of biology, medicine, criminology, dentistry, social work, physical and occupational therapy, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, political science, architecture, geography, pharmacy, nursing, public health, housing, and anthropology, giving them a well-rounded view of people in their cultural, social, and demographic settings.
Gerontology studies includes advanced clinical training in geriatrics, as typically, gerontologists have a clientele of patients they are committed to visiting on a regular basis, often times for many years. Their purpose is to help them continue functioning, contribute to their communities, and enjoy the people and activities they love.
The Combined Conditions of Health Care
Working as teams is a growing trend in elderly health care. Gerontologists work with other within the field of health care, such as medical doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, establishing close, collegial relationships with them and all other practitioners of health care disciplines. By doing this, they receive the extra satisfaction of solving complex problems with collaborative solutions to best serve their patients needs.
Gerontologists study the psychological effects on aging, as well as the interface of normal aging and age related diseases. They investigate the effects of an aging population on society and apply their knowledge to policies and programs. Their considerations range from the macroscopic perspective, such as government planning, and the microscopic view such as effective psychological practices for running a nursing home.
Gerontology consists of a number of sub-fields, along with the associated fields of psychology and sociology. Gerontologists categorize aging by four distinct processes: chronological aging, biological aging, psychological aging, and social aging.
Chronological aging is the aging starting from birth to present day. Biological aging is the physical changes that affect and reduce the proper functions of the organ systems. Psychological aging is the changes that affect the sensory and perceptual processes, cognitive abilities, adaptive capacity, and personality. Social aging relates to the changing roles in a person’s relationships with their family and friends, their social abilities outside of the home, how productive a person is and how well the person functions within organizations.
You will find gerontologists working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinical practices, counseling centers, hospice services, home health services, as well as in research universities and community and government agencies. You will also find them managing or serving as consultants to healthcare facilities or private companies specializing in the needs of older people.
Gerontologists will oftentimes travel in order to treat patients at their home. Part of their duties is in assessing the living conditions. Gerontologists will meet with caregivers and family members to evaluate any changes or concerns there may be and discuss any recommendations they may have to improve the comfort and well-being of the patient.
The most important aspect of their role is gerontologists have genuine interest in and empathy for older people. They have excellent verbal and listening skills along with a huge gift of patience to communicate with the hearing impaired and people who have trouble speaking or understanding conversations. Without the studies of gerontology, our elders and families would not have the support needed.