Gerontology (Certificate)

 The gerontology certificate program combines classroom learning with practical experience. Students take six courses, then they apply their knowledge in supervised field practice in agencies and facilities providing services to the elderly and integrate theory with practice in a seminar in applied gerontology.


Suzanne Weaver, Program coordinator

What is Gerontology?
(Adapted from N. Hooyman and H.A. Kiyak, 1994, Social Gerontology: A Multidisciplinary Perspective, Allyn & Bacon, Inc.)

The growing interest in understanding the process of aging has given rise to the multi-disciplinary field of gerontology, the study of the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging. Gerontologists include researchers and practitioners in such diverse fields as biology, medicine, nursing, dentistry, psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and social work. These individuals are concerned with many aspects of aging, from studying and describing the cellular processes involved, to seeking ways of improving the quality of life for older people. Geriatrics is focused on how to prevent or manage the diseases of aging. The field has recently developed as a specialty in medicine, nursing, and dentistry, and is receiving more attention with the increase in the number of older people who have long-term health problems.

Gerontologists view aging in terms of the following four distinct processes:
1. Chronological aging is the definition of aging on the basis of a person's years from birth. Thus, a 75-year-old is chronologically older than a 45-year old. Chronological age is not necessarily related to a person's physical health, mental abilities, or social status.

2. Biological aging refers to the physical changes that reduce the efficiency of organ systems, such as the lungs, heart, and circulatory system. A major cause of biological aging is the decline in the number of cell replications as an organism becomes chronologically older. Another factor is the loss of certain types of cells that do not replicate.

3. Psychological aging includes the changes that occur in sensory and perceptual processes, mental functioning (e.g., memory, learning, and intelligence), personality, drives, and motives.

4. Social aging refers to an individual's changing roles and relationships in the social structure -with family and friends, with the work world, and within organizations such as religious and political groups. As people age chronologically, biologically, and psychologically, their social roles and relationships also alter. The social context, which can vary considerably for different people, determines the meaning of aging for an individual and whether the aging experience will be primarily negative or positive.

Requirements for the Certificate

  • HLT 100 Biology of Healthy Aging (3 credits)
  • NTR 114 Nutrition and the Elderly (1 credit)
  • SOC 243 Social and Psychological Aspects of Aging (4 credits)
  • SOC 329 Practices, Policies and Politics of Gerontology (3 credits)
  • SOC 331 Applied Gerontology (3 credits)
  • SOC 332 Field Practice in Gerontology (3 credits)

To earn a gerontology certificate, a student must maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 2.0.


Last Updated: 1/13/10