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Gerontology

As people get older, their bodies and constitution change. Changes in our physical and mental health require the assistance of specialists to understand these life adjustments. Health specialists who research, assist or specialize in caring for elderly patients are known as Gerontologists. Gerontology is a vast field that includes the research or study of various biological, social, physical and mental changes in older people and the application of this knowledge to policies and programs to assist the elderly. Gerontology is different from Geriatrics. While Gerontology is the study of the aging process, Geriatrics is the medical study of the diseases of the elderly. Gerontology is the branch of science that focuses on what happens to us as we get older. It is the study of the aging process and the problems that elderly individuals might encounter. Professionals working in this field examine the changing dynamics of aging focusing on chronological (years lived from birth), biological, psychological (changes in sensory, cognitive abilities and personality) and social aspects. Two main specializations in the field of Gerontology are Biogerontology and Social gerontology. Biogerontology is primarily concerned with the research of the biological processes and effects of aging, and the causes that reduce the efficiency of organs. A sub specialisation is Biomedical Gerontology which seeks to find ways to slow or reverse aging and increase lifespan. Social gerontology deals with the social aspects of aging. It deals with the individuals changing relationships with family, friends and colleagues and their roles within organisations as they age. Social gerontologists work directly with older adults in community centers, residential homes and through programs as counselors and Direct care specialists. This field is gaining more importance as the life expectancy has increased manifold from earlier times. People are living much longer than before and the growth of elderly population is going to continue in the future. Hence the demand for these professionals are bound to rise. How to Become a Gerontologists Eligibility In India, institutes offering degree courses in Gerontology are rare compared to countries abroad. But many institutes have started offering post graduate diploma and certificate courses in the field of Gerontology. Some of the traditional degree courses such as Social work, Psychology, Sociology and other health related fields may have Gerontology as a specialty subject. Candidate must be a graduate of any discipline to apply for admission to Gerontology course. Subjects such as biology, sociology, psychology and therapy are the main areas of gerontology. The study of gerontology prepares students to work with and on behalf of diverse older individuals and their families. Personal skill requirements Individuals interested in this field of work should enjoy working with older people and have effective oral and written communication skills. Gerontologists must have compassion and patience for elderly people and have a genuine interest in improving the lives of older people. Besides these, one should have listening skills, commitment to excel in their respective field, self confidence and problem solving ability. Job Prospects There are several roles for Gerontologists in the field. Gerontologists can often find employment in nearly any facility that treat or caters to older people. A professional in this field can start off their career by volunteering in community service agencies which helps them to gain experience as well as get valuable contacts helpful for employment. Depending on the area of interest, one can work as a social worker, a nurse in home health care or adult day care, administrative positions in nursing homes, retirement homes etc and in the field of medicine or research. Some places where gerontologists may be found include hospitals, nursing homes and centers for senior citizens. Some also manage or work as consultants in healthcare facilities or private companies, focused on the needs of older people such as retirement planning, travel and recreation, fitness & health care, developing and delivering educational programs etc. They can also find employment in residential retirement communities, attending to the physical and emotional needs of senior citizens. Gerontologists might also teach in colleges, hospitals and universities or work as counselors to older adults. They also conduct research in the field. Gerontologists may work along with other professionals such as dietitians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, lawyers, or counselors. Remuneration There are many factors that impact the salary of a Gerontologist - area of specialisation, geographic location, level of education and type of institution they work for. Although starting salaries can be scanty with some employers, experience greatly increases the amount of salary earned by a gerontology professional. Salary is much high abroad compared to India, as the opportunities are more.

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