If you've ever wondered, "What is a gerontology degree?" the answer really depends on what discipline you choose to pursue. For example, you can specialize in gerontology in the fields of social work, bio-technology, medicine, research and many others. If you like working with older adults and are thinking about pursuing a healthcare management degree, specializing in gerontology could be a great path to consider.
The timing for professions that center on elder care couldn't be better. The United States is expected to undergo massive growth in the number of older adults. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, between now and 2050, the number of Americans over age 85 will grow from 5.75 million to more than 19 million. This aging population has completely altered American demographics: The nation was young in 1900, for example, with only 4.1 percent of the population over 65. By 2050, one-fifth of the nation's population will be at least 65.
Along with an aging population, the nation will see a dramatic rise in the number of people with chronic diseases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 75 percent of healthcare dollars goes to treatment of chronic diseases, and those numbers will only increase. Diabetes, heart disease and stroke, cancers and dementia are among the leading age-related chronic diseases.
So many people needing all sorts of diagnostics, treatments, therapies and personal care will rely on an equal diversity of healthcare providers. With a healthcare management degree specializing in gerontology, you can pick and choose from this variety and pursue career opportunities in an area that particularly interests you.
The healthcare industry will grow in response to the needs of people who depend on it for good health and survival, and the projected growth in the number of healthcare management positions supports this. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), by 2022 the number of health services manager jobs will grow by 23 percent, much faster than average. These managers will fill key leadership positions within a vast range of healthcare facilities—from hospitals and ambulatory care clinics to skilled nursing facilities, government agencies and research centers.
Medical and health services managers have roles that very with the mission of the organization. With a gerontology degree, you can gravitate toward, but not be limited to, a management role within an organization providing services to older adults, from nursing homes and assisted living facilities to adult day care centers, continuing care facilities and other healthcare venues. Some of your responsibilities might include:
- Developing and implementing policies and procedures
- Managing finances, from payroll to accounts management
- Hiring, training and supervising employees and developing schedules
- Being an expert on the mission of your agency and regulations that govern it
- Working with other professionals from a wide range of disciplines
- Monitoring and maintaining the physical elements of the facility
- Being responsible for maintaining records and proper documentation
- Serving as a spokesperson for the organization
- Ensuring efficient, quality operation of the organization toward achieving its goals
What is a gerontology degree? It is a ticket to exciting possibilities for healthcare managers, an opportunity to be part of the solution to helping serve America's aging population.
To learn more about opportunities relating to healthcare management careers, read our healthcare blog series.