Become a Social Gerontologist
What Is Social Gerontology?
As we approach old age, things in our lives will begin to change drastically. Not only do our bodies begin to deteriorate, but our social interactions become more difficult as well. Friends that we once had to lean on might pass away or become otherwise incapacitated. Family members and other loved ones often become busy with their spouses, children, and careers.
Although many of us would rather not think about it, old age can sometimes be a time of frustration, loneliness, and lack of independence as we need more and more assistance with day to day tasks.
However, it doesn't have to be like this. Social Gerontology is a subfield of gerontology that focuses on the social aspect of growing old. Professionals in this field strive to improve the interactions between older adults and the rest of the world, including family members, peers, and healthcare professionals. They also try to help older adults live more independent and active lifestyles.
Today, social gerontology is especially important. We are now faced with the members of the Baby Boomer generation growing older. Communities and healthcare professionals are now attempting to focus their efforts on making this transition as easy as possible, and there are a number of openings for individuals interested in social gerontology careers.
Why Do We Need Social Gerontology?
Aging can be frustrating, there's no doubt about that. There are even many people that believe a number of ludicrous myths about older adults and old age. Some of these myths include:
- Older adults can't be independent.
- Older adults aren't productive members of society.
- Old age is a time for health problems, loneliness, depression, and grief.
- Older adults can't learn new things, or the old "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" mindset.
- Older age means senility and dementia.
One of the main purposes of social gerontology is to dispel these myths and myths like it. Professionals in this field work with older adults and the people around them to help them navigate through this difficult time in life, making the transition much easier.
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What Do Social Gerontologists Do?
Social gerontologists work with individuals in the twilights of their lives as well as those that surround them. Their main objective is to increase the quality of living for older adults and help others understand them.
Social gerontologists will often work as advocates for older adults. This may involve educating them on their options for healthcare and other areas. Senior advocates might help older adults locate community and health services, or fill out and understand difficult paperwork; this can include filling out paperwork for health insurance, life insurance, and wills. Social gerontologists might also be called upon to help improve or establish communication between older adults and their healthcare providers, such as doctors and nurses.
Mental and emotional issues are also often slightly more prevalent during old age for some. Some social gerontologists also offer counseling and therapy to older adults that may be experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, grief, or other emotional problems.
In many communities, social gerontologists also help to create community programs that benefit older adults. This might include organizing activities and social events for senior citizens, but it could also involve creating community outreach programs that are designed to get seniors more involved with the community. They may help seniors secure part-time jobs or volunteer positions, for instance.
Where Do Social Gerontologists Work?
Any facilities that care for or are otherwise involved with older adults will usually have some interest in hiring social gerontologists. Health facilities, such as hospitals, hospice care centers, and nursing homes, will often employ social gerontologists, for instance. Other facilities that may hire social gerontologists include senior living centers, community centers, and centers for aging. Social gerontologists might also work for government offices, such as those that are involved with Social Security benefits or Medicare.
What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Social Gerontologist?
Most social gerontology careers usually start with a bachelor's degree in psychology, gerontology, social work, or human services. Although some facilities might consider hiring graduates with bachelor's degrees for entry level positions, most individuals pursuing social gerontology careers usually earn graduate degrees in this field. Graduate degrees, such as master's degrees and doctoral degrees, typically enable individuals to qualify for more job opportunities with higher salaries.
Aspiring social gerontologists should take courses that focus on the aging individual, as well as counseling and social work. Students should also consider internships, volunteer positions, or jobs working with older adults. These opportunities will give them valuable experience that is impressive on a resume when trying to secure employment in the future.
What Is the Average Salary for Social Gerontologist?
As with most other professions, social gerontologist salaries are typically based on education level, location, and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social gerontologists fall under the broad category of social and human service assistants. These professionals had a median salary of $28,200 in 2010. Social gerontologists could also fall under the category of social workers, however, and these professionals had a median salary of $42,480 in 2010.
Also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social and human service assistants is expected to grow by almost 30% through 2020. This is partly due to the members of the Baby Boomer generation growing older, and it also means that it may be easier for properly educated individuals to find work in this field.