Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Gerontology Programs Thriving at SDSU

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Gerontology Programs Thriving at SDSU

Article excerpt

In 12013, 13 percent of Americans are 65 years old and older, according to a Pew Research Center study. But lin the next 30 years or so, 20 percent of Americans will reach age 65. Marc Freedman, who wrote The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, told The New York Times that "As tens of millions of people live into their 80s and. 90s, we'll need millions of others in their 50s and 60s and 70s to help care for them, not just within families." Welcome to the graying of America.

And yet at many colleges, gerontology plays a secondary role, has been shifted into sociology departments because of budget cuts, and as stand-up comic Rodney Dangerfield once said, just don't get much respect. But if elder care jobs are proliferating and the need is rising, why aren't more colleges responding to the country's aging needs?

One college that has been paying attention to the graying of the U.S. is San Diego State University (SDSU). It offers an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts in gerontology and is redesign- ing a master's program in gerontology. Its programs attract stu- dents who are dedicated to helping the elderly and see jobs in their future. Up until budget cuts struck California colleges in 2011, it also offered a certificate in gerontology. Any student at SDSU who is interested in helping the elderly preserve their heal tii and dignity will lind a program that suits their needs,

San Diego Stale University is a public university affiliated with the California State University system. Of its 32,000 undergraduates and graduates iti fail 2012, 39 percent were White, 28 percent were latino, 4 percent were African- American, and 4 percent were Asian-American. During 2011- 12, 59 percent of all SDSU students received some form of financial aid or scholarship.

Gerontology is a growing field because of the drop in "mortali- ty and fertility rates" explains Thotn Reilly, director of San Diego State's School of Social Work. People are living longer than ever before, and baby boomers are beginning to retire in droves. "The growing number of older adults croates an increased need for skilled, educated professionals in gerontology," he said.

It also leads to jobs in diverse fields, Reilly suggested, Gerontologists can become nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, social scientists, health care managers and nursing aids. Most critical to all these positions are communi- cation skills because "they are often responsible for recording and relaying information regarding their client or patient," Reilly said.

SDSU's undergraduate major in gerontology is thriving, explained Liz Marucheau, student affairs coordinator in the School of Social Work. Fifty students are majoring in gerontol- ogy. Of that number, 70 percent are minority

In fact, the job prospects in gerontology are plentiful and diverse. Marucheau rattles off a variegated list of jobs in gerontology including direct service, education and training, program planning and evaluation, administration, policy and research. Elder care specialists can obtain jobs in hospitals, health facilities, community clinics, hospices and managed care facilities.

"When the demand exceeds the supply, there will be jobs," she said. In fact, she said over a thousand people daily are turning 65, or more than three million people a year. "With this striking increase comes a growing need for trained profes- sionals to apply new knowledge of the elderly," said Marucheau.

The gerontology major at San Diego State has three major components - liberal arts classes, specific courses in geron- tology and two internships in the senior year. During the first two years, students concentrate on general education. If they maintain a C average, they can major in gerontology. The junior year emphasizes seven core classes including introduc- tion to human aging, intergenerational issues, public health, biology·, psychology, human development and social work. …

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