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School of Public Health and Health Systems


The Area of Gerontology
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In recent years there has been an increased interest in the older person and in the aging process. An important reason for this interest is the recent growth in the proportion of older people in the population of many countries, including Canada. A host of concerns has been raised by the changing age structure of the Canadian population, which can be addressed properly only by examining carefully the aging process and the circumstances of the older person – the field of study known as gerontology.

Gerontology involves a number of disciplines. For example, biologists investigate the changes at the molecular, cellular, and organismal level that take place over time, with a view to possible modification. Gerontologists trained in fields such as psychology, sociology, health studies, and the environment focus on other age-related changes in individual and population aging. To illustrate, psychologists examine the changes with age in psychological functions (perception, thinking, learning) whereas sociologists are interested in reciprocal relationships between the aging person and society. Similarly, those with a background in environmental studies direct their attention to the impact of the environment on aging.

Gerontology focuses on aging studies. There are two components available to University of Waterloo undergraduate students: a Minor in Gerontology and an Option in Aging Studies. In addition, research and graduate studies are carried out within gerontology. A Diploma in Gerontology is also available to individuals not pursuing a University of Waterloo undergraduate degree. 

The minor, option, and diploma represent multidisciplinary academic plans combining courses from a variety of departments such as biology, kinesiology, psychology, sociology, and statistics. These plans are intended to enhance students' understanding of aging processes and to prepare students for careers in those professions which deal with the care of older adults. The plans provide professional development to those already working in these areas, and raise the awareness of the non-specialist for this important, emerging area of study, and concern.


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