Founded in 1976 by EMU faculty and professionals in the field of aging, the aging studies program meets the diverse educational needs of students interested in issues of aging. Our interdisciplinary program emphasizes a life course perspective and addresses realities and myths of growing old. The result is an education that enhances the ability to work with or on behalf of older people effectively and compassionately.

The program is administered through a committee composed of faculty from the following disciplines:

  • Business
  • Gerontology
  • Health Administration
  • Interior Design
  • Nursing Education
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Psychology
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Recreational Therapy
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Special Education
  • Women and Gender Studies


As the number of older Americans increases, the ability to effectively and compassionately serve elders will prove invaluable to professionals from a wide range of disciplines. The diverse needs of the older population have created a demand for aging specialists in such disciplines as:

  • What careers am I eligible for? 
    • Nursing
    • Medicine
    • Occupational and Physical Therapy
    • Speech-Language Pathology
    • Psychology
    • Social Work
    • Nutrition
    • Business Administration
    • Education
    • Recreation
    • Retirement Housing
    • Insurance

In all of these disciplines, aging specialists can help redefine how society views old age. Colleges and universities cannot prepare students quickly enough to satisfy the growing need for professionals in the field of aging.

The Many Roles Gerontologists Play

To meet the diverse needs of the older population, the field of aging requires professionals to play a variety of roles. AGHE (2004) identifies seven roles that gerontologists may play:

  • Direct Service Provider

    Working one-to-one with elders and their families to determine their individual needs and provide appropriate assistance.
  • Program Planner and Evaluator

    Identifying the interests and needs of older persons at the community level, designing programs to meet these needs, and determining the effectiveness of such programs.
  • Manager and Administrator

    Overseeing the daily operation of agencies or programs that address the needs of older adults and their families.
  • Product Developer and Marketer

    Identifying the unmet product and service needs of older persons and informing them about new products and services.
  • Advocate

    Articulating the needs of older people and urging the adoption of public or private programs that address these needs.
  • Educator

    Designing and implementing educational programming for older adults and those who serve them.
  • Researcher

    Carrying out research on the nature of the aging process and on the effectiveness of intervention programs and policies.

Gerontological Social Work

In the past, social work practice was largely confined to the areas of child welfare, mental health and substance abuse. However, the aging of the American population has created a growing need for social workers who specialize in providing services for older adults. Gerontological social workers may run support groups for the adult children of aging parents. They may also assess, coordinate and monitor services such as housing, transportation and long-term care.

The settings in which gerontological social workers practice include hospices, hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities, individual and family service agencies and local governments. Regardless of their field of practice, employment opportunities are expected to be favorable for social workers in the coming years. However, job prospects may be especially good for those with a background in gerontology.