Demand for Gerontological Counselors Grows as Society Ages
The baby boom generation is fast approaching retirement age. Some
of those who will be retiring are going to require counseling. Gerontological
counselors have a bright future.
Gerontology is the study of aging and old age. A gerontological counselor
provides services to elderly people who face changing lifestyles due to health
problems. They help families cope with these changes.
Gerontological counseling offers a fulfilling career in an industry just
now taking off. In the next five years, the field of counseling as a whole
will continue to grow at a steady pace.
The baby boom generation is getting older -- that means a lot of people
are going to retire in the next few years. Plus, since a large number of counselors
themselves are closing in on retirement, there is plenty of opportunity in
the field of gerontology.
At present, this profession is in its infancy. Very few people are actually
practicing. There are far too few gerontological counselors to face the coming
tidal wave of patients. A person who's willing to work could make a whole
pile of cash.
You should not be going into this profession if your sole ambition is to
get rich. But that's no reason to look away from a field which can be very
rewarding both personally and monetarily.
Eileen Reilly is a gerontological counselor. "Yes, I am becoming busier
because of the demographics and hope to continue to be busier as time passes
by," she says.
However, Reilly says it's not all easy. "The problem in gerontology is
that it a relatively new discipline or specialty. It is going to take some
time to educate the public about us, and to encourage the public that they
must pay fees for service."
Right now Reilly has more than one job, since the field is pretty new.
"I work as an independent. But working independently does not pay my bills,
and therefore I am working half-time within the hospital system."
This will more than likely change as more and more people retire, giving
Reilly a larger base of people to work with.
A number of universities have begun to position themselves to help ease
the strain that will be placed on professionals in this field. Schools such
as the University of Michigan, Columbia University and the University of California
offer programs in gerontology.
Jane Myers is a professor in the gerontology department of the University
of North Carolina at Greensboro. She says that since counseling is a graduate-level
position, the courses that she would recommend include human development over
the lifespan, counseling older people, and any entry-level gerontology courses
that you can find. Plus, volunteering at local old age homes could help you
when thinking about taking this career path.
Myers feels, however, that the position of gerontology counselor is really
not for everyone.
"Patronizing, condescending 'I want to help those old people' attitudes
are a problem," she says.
"I think the job of counselor is very rewarding, but counseling is not
for everyone and GC [gerontology counseling] is definitely not for everyone.
A desire to be of service, a genuine caring for older persons, and an awareness
of the continuity of the lifespan is important.
"Counselors work to optimize human potential and wellness. A genuine belief
that adults can grow and change over the lifespan is important for any GC."
Is the country prepared for the retirement tidal wave that is approaching?
"I definitely do not think that universities or community agencies are
prepared for the aging of the boomers. We need to restructure services for
a healthy and vibrant population that will not tolerate being told they are
bad, sad, and worthless because they are old," she says.
A career in a virtually untouched medical field is awaiting you, if you
are the right kind of person. About 80 million people are going to retire
in the coming years, and the average age of North Americans will increase.
That means a lot of people will need counseling.
Gerontological Society of America
Lots of links
National Academy on an Aging Society
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