In 2011, the baby boom generation began to turn 65. In fact, the Pew Research center tells us that every day for the next 19 years approximately 10,000 people per day will turn 65 (Cohn, 2010). This kind of population “growth” is unprecedented, and unfortunately, as a society we aren’t really as ready as we should be for it. However, where there is a weakness we can find a strength and where there is a threat, there is an opportunity! What our society needs right now are capable, compassionate gerontologists. People who find their passion and God given talents in helping those who have traveled life before them. Our society is in need for individuals to research, advocate, plan for and most importantly care for the folks who are aging within it.
When I was growing up, I didn’t even know I could have an education much less a fulfilling career studying and working with elders. I did enjoy spending time with older people, and as I got older myself I found I had a gift of working with them, understanding them and having infinite patient for them. Luckily, I found gerontology. Then I discovered the multiple areas within the discipline that I could study, and it was literally like a bright new world opened up for me. It was a place where I felt appreciated and good at what I was doing. It is that feeling you get when you know you are doing the right thing with your life.
Now it’s true, Gerontology isn’t for everyone. But for those of us who know it is our calling, it is our job to share our knowledge, spread our passion and let others know the important work that needs to be done. There will never be a time that there is not a need for someone to focus on aspects of aging. We are all going to age; the question is, will we do it with flare and grace, or spend thousands of dollars fighting it?
The profession of gerontology continues to grow-much out of necessity. With this growth, the field is wide open for entrepreneurs, business people, caregivers, advocates, finance gurus, technology savants, the list can go on and on…there is room for everyone under the umbrella of gerontology. This area is about understanding the aged and aging process. Every major and every profession can lend expertise and gain from having a gerontological background. In health and human services, gerontology is a hot spot for the hiring market. Finding LCSW’s, therapists, counselors, sociologists etc. who have a specialty in gerontology can command higher starting wages and can often be almost guaranteed a full docket of patients, clients or individual to assist.
So, to answer the question “what does the aging population mean for gerontology?”—it means many things. Certainly, it means a significant and sustainable growth in the profession, finding more avenues to provide services or sell products to enhance the life of older generations. It means more opportunities to serve, as advocates, caregivers, clinicians or a multitude of other jobs in health or human services. And for those of us who care deeply about this population, it means an abundance of opportunities to use our talents and passions to make the life of someone we may or may not know better. And really, isn’t that what life should be about no matter what we do?
Cohn, D. & Taylor, P. (2010, December 20). Baby boomers approach 65- glumly. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/12/20/baby-boomers-approach-65-glumly/
This was written by Dr. Korie Novak, adjunct faculty at CUNE. She has a PhD in Human services with a specialization in Gerontology. She has published numerous articles and presentations regarding aging. Currently she is the CEO of Karuk Tribe Health & Human Services.