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New Masters in Aging & Health Takes Broad Look at Issues Facing Seniors

February 8, 2018 – Recognizing that nearly one in four Americans will be 65 or older by 2060, Georgetown is launching a new Masters in Aging & Health Program this fall.

The 30-credit, three-semester program based at Georgetown’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will draw from teaching faculty across campus.

“There are scores of degree programs in gerontology, which is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of aging that includes the medical field of geriatrics,” says Pamela Saunders, associate professor of neurology and psychiatry and co-founder of Georgetown University School of Medicine’s geriatrics curriculum. “Our program will be different because its scope is much broader, including ethics, psychology, sociality, finance, economics, law and public policy.”

Positive Aging

The program’s health care administration track is designed for early- and mid-career professionals who want to learn about finance and the organization and operation of health systems.

A second track covers health care economics and policy, looking at how understanding the older population will be invaluable in a wide variety of careers, including health care, government, finance, marketing, politics and insurance.

“We are framing the master’s to look at society as a whole and to emphasize aging in its positive light – what older adults can do and offer us as a base of experiential knowledge,” Saunders explains. “Being 65 or older is not what it was 20 years ago.”

Eldercare Industry

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the eldercare industry will be the largest employing sector during the next decade, she says.

“As the population ages, the eldercare industry will continue to experience phenomenal growth in service sectors such as health care and social assistance,” she explains.

In addition to Saunders, core faculty for the program will come from the university’s McCourt School of Public Policy, the School of Nursing & Health Studies and McDonough School of Business.

Wide-Ranging Courses

Saunders defines “aging and health” as the study of people in culture and society, locally and globally, as they age, focusing on health, wellness, quality of life, economics and public policy.

Students in the program will learn about the behavior of individuals, health care providers, public and private organizations and governments.

Some of the courses also include policy and politics of entitlements, health care access demand issues and health policy and politics, as well as courses in aging and law and financial management.

Fighting Ageism

Saunders says society hasn’t yet figured out how to make the most of the change in the population.

“Current employment practices, public transportation and housing policies make it hard for us to stay involved and contribute when we get older,” she says, “and older adults are not treated as equals in our society. They are marginalized and their participation in society is minimized because of implicit ageism and an assumption that older people are less competent than younger people. We must confront this injustice.”

The goal of the master’s program is to bring together a community that will develop creative solutions to reduce ageism and provide a social marketplace that will truly make those golden years shine, she explains.

“As we age, we gain momentum. More experience and greater wisdom push us forward,” Saunders says. “That experience and insight add energy and possibility—the ability to contribute to our society’s vitality.”