Gerontology is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging. It is distinguished fromgeriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that studies the diseases of older adults.
Gerontology encompasses the following:
The field of gerontology is relatively new, and as such often lacks structural and institutional support. Relatively few universities offer a PhD in gerontology. However, the huge increase in the aging population in post-industrial Western nations has led to this becoming one of the most rapidly growing fields.
Medical gerontology studies the biological causes and effects of aging. Both fields are considered by many scientists to be the most important frontiers in aging research.
Social gerontology is a multi-disciplinary sub-field that specializes in studying or working with older adults.
Social gerontologists may have degrees or training in social work, nursing, psychology, sociology, demography, gerontology, or other social science disciplines. Social gerontologists are responsible for educating, researching, and advancing the broader causes of older people.
Because issues of life span and life extension need numbers to quantify them, there is an overlap with demography. Those who study the demography of the human life span differ from those who study the social demographics of aging.
Social work with older adults
Social work with older adults, known as geriatric social work practice, is considered to be both a macro and micro practice with individuals over the age of 60 or 65, their families and communities, aging related policy, and aging research. Geriatric social workers typically provide counseling, direct services, care coordination, community planning, and advocacy in an array of agencies and organizations including private practice, in home, neighborhoods, hospitals, senior congregate living, hospice/end of life care, senior centers, oncology centers and residential long term care facilities such as nursing facilities. At the macro level, geriatric social workers work within state departments of health, adult protective services, and at universities and colleges, as well as Administration on Aging offices on a federal level in the United States.
Rapid aging populations are expected worldwide. In the United States, the “baby boomer” generation began to turn 65 in 2011. Those over the age of 85 are projected to increase from 5.3 million to 21 million by 2050. With the rapid growth of the aging population, social work education and training specialized in older adults and practitioners interested in working with older adults are increasingly in demand. In the last decade, geriatric social work education, practice, and research have received substantial support from foundations such as the John. A Hartford Foundation,Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Atlantic Philanthropies.