Gerontology, the scientific field of study of old age, the process of ageing, and the particular problems of old people. This includes studying physical, mental and social aspects of ageing.
Unlike geriatrics, which concentrates on the medical aspects of ageing bodies and how they change and adjust to change in advanced age, the field of gerontology has a multidisciplinary focus. Gerontology can be a rewarding field, allowing you to practice a diverse range of skills for improving the health of senior citizens.
As a gerontologist, you will apply a blend of biological and psychological practices to the study of ageing. There are also ample opportunities to do research on various dimensions of ageing.
After conducting the review of research in the field of Gerontology in our UT of J&K the efforts have been sporadic and in piece meals.
The need of the hour is to promote interdisciplinary research in the field of Gerontology as envisaged by National Education Policy 2020. There is an immediate need to establish a well-coordinated Interdisciplinary Center for Gerontology Studies for churning out trained gerontologists who can address the psycho-social needs of this aged population whose number is in lakhs in our UT of J&K.
The skills you learn as a gerontologist are going to be needed even more in the future. Life expectancy has increased dramatically in recent decades, ensuring that the need for gerontologists will increase. From medical care to social security, the broad-scale effects touch the lives of every senior citizen.
The number of senior citizens continues to grow each day, so the world needs trained gerontologists to address psycho-social crisis of this vulnerable group.
While geriatrics is equally as important and necessary, gerontologists can create positive change and assist with decision-making by adding insight from different backgrounds, like nursing, sociology, social work, economics, etc.
Gerontology offers education that is unique because it is targeted on a very specific population. Those who major in gerontology develop an empathetic interest in helping the senior citizens.
Whether it stems from a sociological, psychological, economic, or health perspective, this field of study is multidisciplinary and constantly evolving. You can have the opportunity to work directly with senior citizens or take a research path that leads to shaping the policy that is in the larger interest of senior citizens.
Regardless of what direction you choose to take, you will be offering much needed help to a vulnerable population. Because of this, you can bet on growth in a highly rewarding career with a high spiritual coefficient.
Possible Career Paths in Gerontology
The field of gerontology is interesting because it is both broad and specific at the same time. In other words, you work with a specific population, but you have diverse ways to provide support. Let us take a look at some popular career paths within the field:
1. Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists work with senior citizens to regain or unlock the functioning of their body to perform daily activities in a smooth way.
2. Mental Health Therapist
A mental health therapist uses psychotherapy to help senior citizens in psychological distress. For those in this field, they may help patients and family members deal with the challenges of the aging process.
Like the title implies, a caregiver offers care in areas like: daily grooming, basic food preparation, and providing transportation. A trained gerontologist will guide the caregivers how to handle senior citizens suffering from multiple-morbidities and at the same time focus on their mental resilience.
4. Social Worker
Gerontological social workers connect senior citizens with community support resources and cash their rich life experiences by way of mentorship. They can also provide necessary Guidance and Counseling to senior citizens about the principles of successful ageing.
In the light of the above reflections the Universities in the UT of J&K can work out the modalities to establish the Inter-Disciplinary Research Center for Gerontology Studies with the following mission, vision and core values.
The mission of the Center of Gerontology will help preserve the mental health of senior citizens, promote intergenerational social communication and to support low-income and disabled senior citizens of age 65 years and above, with high-quality and compassionate volunteer service.
The Center of Gerontology vision will be to improve the lives of senior citizens who need assistance to live stress free and dignified life in their homes and communities; to enhance their quality of life through health, wellness and fitness; to infuse optimism in them for leading a long and productive lives; and to improve their cognitive ability and social engagement through non- formal and informal education and awareness.
Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir