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Gerontology - Teaching And Training

aging programs offered aging education

The steadily increasing recognition of the importance of gerontology is reflected in its growing presence in the curricula of institutions of higher education in the United States. In the 1950s, coursework on aging was offered on only a small number of campuses. Data collected in 1957 showed that only fifty-seven colleges and universities offered credit courses in gerontology. The number of campuses with courses on aging increased to 159 in 1967, 607 in 1976, and 1,335 in 1985. By 1992, when the last major survey was conducted, it was estimated that gerontology instruction was offered on 1,639 campuses, or at 55 percent of American institutions of higher education. Of these campuses with credit instruction in 1992, the average number of courses in gerontology was 9.4 and over 40 percent offered a structured program of course-work in gerontology, geriatrics, or aging leading to the awarding of a degree, certificate, specialization, concentration, minor, or some other form of credential (Peterson, Wendt, and Douglass.

An important development in graduate education was the establishment of the first Ph.D. programs in gerontology in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A long and continuing debate has centered on the question of whether gerontology is better viewed as a field of specialization or as an emerging academic discipline. Those taking the position that gerontology is a field of specialization contend that doctoral work should take place in one of the more traditional disciplines (e.g., biology, psychology, sociology), but with an emphasis on aging in coursework and research. Those holding the view that gerontology has reached a stage of maturity in its theories, methods, and content argue that doctoral-level work leading to a Ph.D. in gerontology is justified. The merits of each of these positions aside, academic programs leading to a Ph.D. in gerontology existed at a handful of American universities at the outset of the twenty-first century. The debate about whether gerontology is a specialty or a full-fledged academic discipline will doubtless continue, but the emergence of Ph.D. programs attests to the increasing recognition of its importance.

The most comprehensive list of college and university programs in gerontology, geriatrics, and aging has been compiled by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE, now an Educational Unit of the Gerontological Society of America). In its seventh edition, the Directory of Educational Programs in Gerontology and Geriatrics (Stepp) provides detailed information on the content, focus, and type and level of credential offered in close to eight hundred programs in the United States, Canada, and other countries.

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