Definition of Gerontology
Gerontology is the study of aging and older adults. The science of gerontology has evolved as longevity has improved. Researchers in this field are diverse and are trained in areas such as physiology, social science, psychology, public health, and policy. A more complete definition of gerontology includes all of the following:
- Scientific studies of processes associated with the bodily changes from middle age through later life;
- Multidisciplinary investigation of societal changes resulting from an aging population and ranging from the humanities (e.g., history, philosophy, literature) to economics; and
- Applications of this knowledge to policies and programs.
The Difference Between Gerontology and Geriatrics
Gerontology is multidisciplinary and is concerned with physical, mental, and social aspects and implications of aging. Geriatrics is a medical specialty focused on care and treatment of older persons. Although gerontology and geriatrics have differing emphases, they both have the goal of understanding aging so that people can maximize their functioning and achieve a high quality of life.
Why Study Gerontology?
With an understanding of gerontology, an individual can make plans for her or his own life course and needs, and communities and legislators can make necessary public policy choices. Public policy decisions are critical because of the tremendous growth of our population aged 65. Georgia’s older adult population is the fourth fastest growing in the nation and currently numbers 1.2 million. The South added nearly 2.5 million older adults between 2000 and 2010. Nationally, it is projected that the older population will double to 89 million by 2050 – a rate of growth that is twice as fast as the under age 50 population. The demand for professionals with expertise in gerontology will mirror these increases.