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Using Your Gerontology Degree to Unlock the Psychology of Aging

A senior observes his surroundings

Aging was once a taboo topic. People didn’t like to discuss their age, and they didn’t relish the idea of growing old. With massive advances in wellness and medicine, the current population enjoys a much healthier and longer lifespan. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those who are 65 and older make up more than 14% of the population. In the next 20 years, that number is expected to swell to more than 20%. But the changes don’t only stop at the number of adults living well into advanced age. Because people are living longer with better health, the need for individuals to work for them is growing. If you are considering pursuing your Master of Arts in Gerontology or Master of Aging Services Management, now is the time.

The Psychology of Aging Today

While the population over the age of 65 is growing considerably, their lifestyle has also evolved. Older citizens might live independently, work into advanced age, and take an active role in any number of groups in their communities. According to the American Psychological Association, there are also mental health conditions that are more prevalent in those of advanced age. In some cases, these conditions might be the result of genetics. In other cases, there may be some issues related to lifestyle changes and other environmental causes which are unavoidable. Geropsychology, a specific field of psychology that focuses on the elderly, is often invaluable in pinpointing conditions early in order to offer better treatment.

There are a number of scenarios possible with regard to senior lifestyle and health:

  • Mental Capacity. Mental capacity is always a concern for seniors because they’re susceptible to different factors, such as dementia, which can hinder their ability to care for themselves mentally. Other possible health issues, such as stroke, can cause issues with mental acuity. Many seniors who face deterioration of mental faculties will need care on a daily basis.
  • Physical Health. With age, there can be obstacles to physical health. Depending on the severity, physical limitations may cause seniors to lose some or much of their former independence.
  • Emotional Wellbeing. Emotional wellbeing can be a wide-reaching issue. Seniors often face traumatic changes, such as loss of loved ones and their own failing health. These severe environmental stresses can lead to depression and other psychological hardships.
  • Financial Stability. Because people are living longer and healthier lives, the old modes of saving for retirement often fall short of what seniors will need. Financial stability is a large concern for seniors and their families once regular income ceases, especially for active seniors who may live many years longer than their savings was geared to sustain.
  • Family Affair: Caregivers and Family Considerations

    Age can strain the lifestyle of those who are entering their advanced years, but it can also put extra stress on many of their family members. It’s common for those in their 40s and 50s to find themselves caring for ailing parents while still raising their own children. For adult children, there are many things to consider for their parents, as well as their own future.

    Legal Matters:

  • Elder Attorney. It’s important that the assistance of an elder attorney is sought to attend to issues, such as drawing up a will and taking care of financial planning.
  • Health Directives. For those who are advancing in age, it may be important to assign a person to make medical decisions in the event the senior can no longer make their own. This is especially important when there are known health risks or there’s a mental incapacitation.
  • Financial Control. It’s important that the beneficiary and any executor for financial matters is named ahead of time. An elder attorney can help make arrangements so that the right person is given control of finances and can ensure that funds are used as directed.
  • Living Arrangements:
  • Independent Living. In many cases, seniors may choose to live independently in their own home. This can be a very healthy decision that makes the senior more comfortable. He or she may be able to physically take care of themselves and their home entirely, or they may need some assistance with certain responsibilities but maintain their lifestyle in most ways.
  • Assisted Living. Assisted living may offer an excellent option for those who need more advanced care on a regular basis.
  • Retirement Communities. Retirement communities offer a great alternative for seniors who can do most things on their own but would be and feel more secure in a community where there are experts to monitor and help them in case of a problem. Retirement communities often have a great many activities and social opportunities, which aid in a more mentally and emotionally beneficial lifestyle.
  • Living With Relatives. In some cases, an elderly relative may no longer be able to live on their own, and the family opts to care for them at home. This can be a great option for those who don’t like the idea of assisted living. It can cause a good deal of stress in the home environment, which should be monitored.

    Career Growth with a Master of Arts in Gerontology Degree

    Gerontology as a field is growing. You might consider using your education in the field, such as working with retirement communities or assisted living programs. However, those aren’t the only fields where a gerontology degree would be beneficial. Seniors make up a large portion of the population today. As that percentage continues to grow, it’s important to cater to and consider this demographic in virtually all fields. You might find a gerontology useful in many areas, including law, business, and healthcare.

    Interested in Earning Your Masters of Arts in Gerontology Online?

    If you’re interested in earning your Master of Arts in Gerontology & Master of Aging Services Management to enhance your existing professional psychology experience, consider studying through the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. The school was founded in 1975 as the first professional school of gerontology. Not only does USC Leonard Davis hold the distinction of pioneering the educational programs for this field, USC is also one of the top 25 national universities recognized by US News and World Report. Choosing to complete your master’s through this program can prepare to meet the needs of seniors in your desired industry and to make real contributions to the world around you.

    Sources:

    https://aoa.acl.gov/Aging_Statistics/index.aspx

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/geeta-nayyar-md/caregiving-5-ways-to-help-elderly-age-independently_b_2878966.html

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/caring-for-the-elderly/art-20048403

    https://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/aging.pdf

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