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Olivet College has announced the launch of a new gerontology minor, beginning fall 2019. Gerontology is the multidisciplinary study of the physical, mental and social changes of individuals as they grow from middle age through later life. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, 14.5% of Americans in 2014 were 65 years old or older. This percentage is expected to rise to 21.7% by 2040. Through its gerontology minor program, Olivet College is helping to meet the need for people trained to work with the growing population of older Americans.

Provost Maria Davis, Ph.D., reinforced the necessity of a gerontology program in today’s changing world.

“It makes me especially proud that Olivet College is extending its historic mission of inclusivity and service-mindedness to preparing students to specifically address the needs of older members of our communities,” Davis said. “With the number of older Americans predicted to double in the next 25 years, students in all majors who minor in gerontology will be better equipped to work with older adults, whatever their ultimate career field.”

There are currently five other colleges in Michigan that offer a gerontology minor. However, most of these programs are specifically designed to meet the needs of students in health care fields. Olivet’s gerontology program has been designed for students studying in all disciplinary areas; it will benefit any student who plans to work with the public as part of his or her career. Students with majors in accounting, criminal justice, exercise science, financial planning, fitness management and sports and recreation management are expected to especially benefit from adding the gerontology minor.

Those interested in the business field will learn about the needs of older clients transitioning from active employment to full or partial retirement. Students studying health and human performance will gain insight on how elders can continue to participate in activities they enjoy and how to help them find ways to adapt physically to their aging bodies. Criminal justice majors, especially those who plan to work in correctional facilities, will be interacting with an increasingly elderly population. Those interested in the medical and helping professions will benefit from learning about social and historical factors that affect their patients and clients.

Kate Jones, MSN, RN, assistant professor of nursing and architect of the program, stressed how the gerontology minor will give Olivet students an advantage in the workforce.

“As a nurse, I have had the opportunity to work with older adults,” Jones said. “I feel quite passionately about caring for our elders. With the aging population, caring for and providing services to older Americans is a growing field. I feel that no matter what major the Olivet student may pursue, the odds are that some component of their job will entail working with the elderly. The best way to prepare our students for the changing demographics of our nation is to prepare them for working with this diverse population. Whether it is working with people with dementia in prison systems or providing leisure activities for an increasingly fit older population or providing financial advice to an elder, students who have a minor in gerontology will be better able to identify, understand and reach this growing age group. This will give Olivet graduates a leg up in the hiring process for their chosen careers.”

The minor will consist of 25 credits, 19 of which will be required classes and six of which will be chosen from a list of electives related to aging. The minor will also include a practicum, in which students can apply the skills they learned in class. Courses will provide students with insight and understanding of elders, discuss social and policy issues affecting elders, teach the impact aging has on the body and mind, and cover historical events that informed the lives of older people. The minor meets the recommendations of the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) Program of Merit guidelines.

Cynthia Noyes, J.D., chair of the Social Science Department, professor of sociology/anthropology and director of the Betsy Dole Women’s Resource Center, highlighted how students can follow Olivet’s mission through the study of gerontology.

“Baby boomers are getting older,” she said. “As they age, they place pressure on the existing infrastructure established for older Americans. Baby boomers are also aging differently and the existing infrastructure is not necessarily set up to handle the differences in how we age now and how we used to age. Employment opportunities for those interested in working with older people are opening up in many fields.

“Students who take the courses offered in the gerontology minor will be better qualified in the ‘divine art and science of doing good to others’ through their enhanced understanding of the diversity of knowledge, experience and culture of those in prior generations. Our students will benefit from learning from those who have gone before, and our elders will benefit from the aid and care given by our students.”

To learn more about Olivet College’s gerontology minor, contact the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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