Printed from ABQjournal.com, a service of the Albuquerque Journal
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Master's in Gerontology Might Be Useful in N.M.
By Autumn Gray
Of the Journal
EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS: In six states, more than one in every four residents will be at least age 65 by 2030.
The nation's largest age group, the baby boomers, is to blame. As you've undoubtedly heard, the oldest of them turn 60 this year. They're expected to live longer than any previous generation, and they intend to participate fully in life right up until that last breath.
It's an older population that's "not likely to take retirement lying down," says Bernadette Bell, community relations coordinator for
But the rest of us may not be as prepared as we think for their longevity— especially in the work force.
That's why Webster is offering the state's first master's degree in gerontology.
"We're trying to be responsive to the needs of the community in offering this program; it just doesn't exist," said Ellen Driber-Hassall, senior director for the
Gerontology is a multi-disciplinary field studying how normal, healthy aging affects individuals, cultures and society. It is not the same as geriatrics, which is the clinical study, focusing on health care and disease associated with getting older.
"Included in gerontology's scope is how the aging process affects careers, industries and markets— from human resources to banking and real estate to marketing and tourism," according to the university's Web site.
Courses in the 36-hour program include "Economic Issues for Older Adults," "Psychology of Aging," "Management of Programs for Older Adults" and "Social Science Perspectives in Gerontology." A bachelor's degree in any field is a prerequisite.
"The eight core courses will cover a little bit of everything a person in the business world today would need to know when dealing with seniors," said Driber-Hassall.
"Think of what the work force is going to be in five to 10 years. It will be saturated with older adults. ... (Gerontology) is a core essential element to help any business."
That's going to be true whether the older person is an employee or a client.
Human resources departments that know the special needs of their aging employees will inevitably foster more productive companies and make more successful hires.
Similarly, companies with greater knowledge of what makes their older clients tick will in turn be able to serve them better.
"We're going to experience a huge demographic shift with the baby boomers retiring,"
Of the 2 million people projected to reside in
Nationally, there will be 71.4 million people in that age group by 2030 and 40 million in just the next four years.
But to assume they fall into one of two categories— either very healthy or awaiting the grave— is inappropriate, says Althea West, who received her master's degree in gerontology from the
"We've got this vision in our mind about what older people are like, and it couldn't be further from the truth. The older population today is the most diverse of any group," she said.
West is a 52-year-old licensed insurance broker specializing in long-term care planning just outside
She said the gerontology program gave her a broad perspective on the process of aging. "It's not just about the meds you take or the doctors you talk to. It's about family relationships; it's about preparing yourself to change your mind about things and to quit making assumptions (about how people age).
"Just like in childhood with childhood phases, there's all these adult phases we go through, and we are so uninformed about how to transition through all the things we're all going to have to face."
(Statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau.)