Gerontology is the scientific study of the biological, psychological, and sociological phenomena associated with aging and old age. The study of aging is an expanding area of both demographic interest and career opportunities.
Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the population. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 47 years, and only 4% of the population was aged 65 or older. In 2010, average life expectancy has increased to 78 and the 65+ population makes up approximately 12.9% of the total population.
The phrase “graying of America” is appropriate when one considers that Baby Boomers, the cohort made up of individuals born between 1946 and 1964, began to turn 65 starting January 2011. The demographic change of this “graying of America” continues as up to 10,000 Baby Boomers turn age 65 each day for the next 18 years. These demographic changes suggest that 20% of the population will be 65+ by the year 2030. The past increase in the number of older Americans and the expected shift in the population as baby Boomers reach old age have altered the economic, social, and political roles occupied by older adults continuing to bring about changes in our society as a whole.
With these trends in mind, BGSU instituted one of the first bachelor's degrees in gerontology in the country. Since awarding our first degree in 1976, BGSU has been preparing graduates for positions in agencies and institutions that administer and deliver services for older adults including senior centers, social service and health care agencies, and nursing homes. Today, BGSU is one of fewer than 50 colleges/universities in the country that offers a bachelors degree in gerontology.
Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Gerontology
Students who graduate from the undergraduate program in Gerontology will have a strong interdisciplinary background in aging studies. In addition to a liberal arts base, students complete course work in a cognate area. Cognates provide specialization in administration, biology, health, human resource management, nutrition, psychology, sociology, recreation, or service planning. Cognates can also be designed to include appropriate coursework for graduate study in other areas such as health promotion, occupational therapy, and public policy.
A special option available for students majoring in Gerontology is a specialization in Long-Term Care (LTC) administration. This program combines a major in gerontology with coursework in areas such as accounting, economics, and management. This specialization prepares students to sit for both the state (Ohio) and federal nursing home administrator’s licensure examinations. The long-term care administration specialization is accredited by the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Board (NAB).
Both tracks within the gerontology program emphasize active and engaged learning. The final component of the program is the practicum experience which blends theory from the classroom with practical experience in an agency serving older adults. The practicum consists of a minimum of 400 hours of on-site, supervised experience in a program, agency or organization that serves older adults. Students specializing in LTC administration are required to complete an an internship of at least 1,000 hours or as required by the state of Ohio's Board of Executives of Long-Term Care Services and Support (BELTSS) and/or our accrediting body, the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB).
In addition to the major in gerontology, the gerontology program offers a minor in gerontology. The minor in gerontology is appropriate for many health and human service careers such as health care administration, communication sciences and disorders, community health, and social work. In addition, students from fields such as psychology and sociology may find a minor in gerontology a way to specialize their interest in the social sciences. The minor in gerontology consists of 3 required courses and 4 additional courses (21 hours total). See the link for additional information on the requirements for the minor.
Small Class Sizes
The average class size for upper level Gerontology classes is under 35 students, which allows students and faculty to interact on a more personal level. Faculty can provide more individualized attention to students and work to ensure that students are receiving the appropriate information they need for their goals.
Students participate in volunteering, service learning, and a required practicum that provides an understanding of the needs of older adults and the services they require. There is a strong emphasis on helping older adults adapt to aging in positive ways, ever mindful of their uniqueness and their individual dignity.
Two Tracks of Study
As previously indicated, students can choose to pursue general gerontology or long-term care administration courses of study. Both tracks require the completion of a supervised field placement (i.e. internship).
Preparation for Long-term Care Licensure
Our program meets the standards set by the Board of Executives of Long-Term Services and Supports (BELTSS) in the state of Ohio and the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB), which enable the graduate to become a licensed administrator of a long-term care facility.
For Further Information
Please contact Dr. Wendy Watson, Coordinator of the Gerontology Program
College of Health and Human Services
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH 43403