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
Explore the opportunities

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