Gerontology Concentration of the UMA Social Science Program
Gerontology is the study of aging in social context, tracking social and psychological changes in individuals as they age and the effect of an aging population on society. Gerontology is a theoretical enterprise, informed by demographic, psychological and sociological thought. But gerontology is also a practically-minded field, interested in applying its findings to shape governmental policies, organizational programs and individual-level practices in a way that improves individual and social outcomes.
The study of aging becomes ever more important as our population ages. The state of Maine already has the third-largest share of residents aged 65 years or more; as population pyramidsfrom the U.S. Census Bureau show, Maine and every other one of the United States is projected to age considerably over the next generation.
As our population ages, many aspects of our personal and professional lives — from households to health care, from public pensions to the private sector — will be affected in some way. Students who understand the trends behind and effects of aging will be well-positioned to help others in relevant careers.
Some of the fields available to gerontology graduates include:
- Case work
- Continuing care specialist
- Family mediator
- Employee assistance professional
- Home health service
- Hospital and hospice care
- Mental health service
- Program coordination and planning
- Rehabilitation specialist
- Senior education
- Wellness consultant
Students who continue their study of gerontology in graduate school can look forward to careers as counselors, legal experts, policy analysts, professors and nonprofit administrators.
The gerontology concentration at UMA is attained by taking four courses as part of a social science major:
HUS 350 Mental Health and Aging: This course provides a comprehensive overview of the unique health and treatment needs of the psychiatrically ill, older adult. It will enable mental health care givers to provide age sensitive care in a variety of settings. Topics will include biological, social, psychological and physical aspects of aging, dementia, and major psychiatric disorders.
PSY 309 Psychology of Adulthood: The exceptional challenges in trying to comprehend the patterns, meanings and potential of human development from early to late adulthood provide the focus in this course. Problem based learning tasks include: work capacity across the adult years, political beliefs and activities, adult children and their parents, religion in adult life, possessions and loving and losing.
SOC 319 Social Gerontology: Emphasizes the social aspects of the aging process, focusing upon the aging individual as a person and older people as groups within a changing society. In particular, the impact of aging upon the individual and society, and the reactions of the individual and society to aging are examined.
SSC 362 Death and Dying: Covers a range of theoretical viewpoints, practices, and cultural values related to the human life and death cycle. Among the topics included for study are near-death experiences, condolence behaviors, palliative care practices, death industries, spirituality and religious beliefs, grief reactions and therapies, cultural differences, public laws, education initiatives, leave taking rituals, historical views of death, and ethical issues.