Gerontology, the study of old age, is becoming a fast-growing field as the senior population increases in the U.S.
Texas Tech University recently was included on a list of the top 15 online schools for master's degrees in gerontology. The list, created by Online Schools Center, selected the top gerontology programs based on various factors including nature of coursework, degree of curriculum thoroughness and complexity, full online availability, financial aid availability and an education extending beyond classroom experience.
Gerontology is the study of the aspects of old age and the process of aging, including social, psychological, cognitive and biological components. According to Online Schools Center, the field of gerontology is likely to increase immensely over the next several decades, as senior citizens will represent around 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2040. Professionals specializing in both the social and medical fields of gerontology will be valuable in providing vocational, legal, medical, social, psychological and advocacy services to senior citizens in the near future.
Lynn Huffman, executive associate dean of the College of Human Sciences, said students' interest in studying gerontology has increased along with society's need for services and understanding about older people.
“This need has always been there, but it's getting bigger now, and a lot of people are becoming interested in this field,” Huffman said. “We want to take care of our older population as it grows. Not only do they have a lot to offer, but we're all going to be where they are someday and we need to understand where we're going.”
Texas Tech's gerontology program, which offers an online master's degree in human development and family studies with an emphasis in gerontology, is made possible through a consortium of universities called the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA). By having several universities come together to create the gerontology program, students are allowed access to courses offered by multiple institutions, creating the unique, blended coursework curriculum that gives the program its competitive edge.
The 36-credit-hour program at Texas Tech is completed entirely online and offers specialization options in adult development, aging in the family and environments and aging. Huffman said in addition to the collaboration of universities used to create the program, studying gerontology through Texas Tech is unique due to the faculty's excellence in creating an efficient and thorough online curriculum.
“This program stands out from others because as a student, you get access to the best faculty from several different schools,” Huffman said. “The courses are very well done and the faculty is committed and knowledgeable about teaching in an online manner. This is obviously quite different than the in-classroom experience, but our team has years of experience and genuinely wants to take care of the students in this program.”