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What They Do

Insider Info

A gerontologist is anyone who works with the elderly in one way or another.

If you lived 100 years ago, your life expectancy would have only been about 50 years! Because of medical breakthroughs in this century, people are living longer.

That means we have more older people. We need professionals who can help make their quality of life better. These professionals are called gerontologists.

The field of gerontology is multidisciplinary. That means that people from many different educational backgrounds (doctors, nurses, teachers and sociologists) work as gerontologists.

Since we all age, the study of gerontology is in everyone's best interest, not just those who are seniors right now. Gerontology researchers actually study the aging process. They study how we change mentally and physically as we get older.

Some gerontologists are doctors who specialize in working with the elderly.

Teachers can also be gerontologists. They may teach the subject at a university or college level, and write about the issues of aging.

A gerontologist can be an administrator in a nursing home, an assisted living community or a senior citizens' center. They try to provide the most comfortable environment for the elderly.

Since gerontology includes many different professions, people in this field are hired in various positions and settings.

"You are limited only by your imagination," says David Haber. He works with the health promotion and gerontology department at the University of Texas in Galveston.

"Health-care facilities, retirement communities, educational institutions and government agencies hire gerontologists."

"Workweek and hours of work can vary in different settings," says Bill Krever. He is the president and CEO of a charitable organization for seniors.

"In a community setting, there is some evening work and weekend work, though it is mostly 9 to 5."

Haber says that in his position, he has a lot of freedom to choose his hours. Some travel can be involved. "I travel about four times a year," he says. "I could travel more or less if I wanted."

The physical requirements for this field are the same as any other office job.

At a Glance

Help older people improve their quality of life

  • Gerontology is a very diverse field -- it's hard to say how many people work in it
  • As the baby boomers age, there will be more demand for gerontologists
  • You can enter the field with a degree in gerontology, nursing, sociology or psychology