Careers in Gerontology

window with fall ivyPopulations are aging worldwide. This means that people live longer, and the number of older persons is increasing. In the U.S., of those born in 1900 nearly half died before they were 50 years old. People born today can expect to live beyond their 75th year. In 1900 about one in 25 Americans was over 65; today one in eight is over 65. The age group growing fastest in our society and in many other countries are the very old people aged 85 and over. This growth will continue well into the 21st century, when one in five Americans will be over 65, and there will be 15 to 18 million persons over the age of 85.

These growth trends will result in a demand for professionals with knowledge and expertise in aging. Expanded career opportunities in gerontology are forecast in many disciplines and professions, each area requiring a work force with education and training in gerontology. Some people will work directly with elders in

  • developing programs such as health promotion, senior theater groups, intergenerational activities for elders in senior centers, community agencies, or retirement communities;
  • providing direct care to frail, ill, or impaired older persons in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or through adult day care or home care programs;
  • counseling older people and their families about issues of caregiving, employment, death and dying, or mental health; and
  • advising older clients about estate planning and investments, financing long-term care or housing options.

Other professionals are less directly involved with older persons, but work on their behalf, educate others, or investigate issues in the field of aging. Examples of their activities include

  • conducting research on the aging processes and diseases associated with aging such as Alzheimer's disease or osteoporosis;
  • analyzing issues related to elders such as retirement opportunities, income maintenance, the health care system, and housing alternatives;
  • planning, administering, and evaluating community-based services and service delivery systems for older persons;
    teaching classes and courses to community members, college and university students, health care professionals, and older adults;
  • advocating with or on behalf of elders before legislative bodies or in institutional settings;
  • designing products to meet the special interests and needs of older persons; and
  • advising business, industry, and labor regarding older workers and consumers.