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Gerontology Overview


For more information on careers in this field, see the list on the right. For salary ranges, schooling requirements and more, check out the Career Explorer.

Gerontology is the branch of science that focuses on what happens to us as we get older. Gerontologists study how aging affects us mentally, socially and physically. People are living much longer than they used to, which is creating new opportunities for health workers who specialize in caring for elderly patients.

As people get older, their bodies change. Bones become more brittle. Muscles lose their tone. The immune system doesn’t work as well. As a result, older people are more likely to suffer from health problems, including both acute (sudden, severe) and chronic (ongoing) conditions.

Older people are more likely to experience heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. Their risk of cancer and certain mental health issues increases. Even common conditions, like colds and broken bones, take longer to heal.

That’s why older people often have multiple health concerns. A patient may be receiving treatment for high blood pressure, cataracts and back pain from three different doctors. She may be taking several different medications every day.

Older people usually require more health care, but evidence suggests that baby boomers are even more likely to seek medical attention. This post-WWII population, born between 1946 and 1964, made more than half of all doctor visits in 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Baby boomers are also the fastest-growing patient population. By 2030, more than one-fifth of Americans – 70 million individuals – will be over age 65.

As the baby boomers age, career opportunities will grow for most health workers, particularly those who seek additional training in the health needs of the elderly, such as:

Read an article about the need for geriatric health workers