Youngstown State University is launching a new master’s degree program in gerontology to address the growing needs of the increasing aging population across the region and nation.
“We anticipate that both the proportion and number of older Americans will continue to grow in the years ahead, which will only create a stronger demand for professionals in the field of gerontology,” said Daniel Van Dussen, associate professor and director of Gerontology at YSU.
“A master’s degree in gerontology may soon be essential for individuals interested in attending to the country’s aging population.”
The YSU program, the only one of its kind in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, will enroll up to a dozen students per year beginning this fall semester, which begins in August, and will offer flexible evening, online and hybrid courses.
“This new degree reflects YSU’s continued commitment to identifying and developing academic programs that proactively address both the challenges and opportunities facing our society – locally, statewide and across the country,” said Bryan DePoy, interim dean of the YSU School of Graduate Studies and Research.
The program is designed for individuals interested in pursuing research-related careers in gerontology or in advancing in the gerontology field. The degree takes an interdisciplinary approach and allows students to study aging from a variety of perspectives, including biological, psychological and sociological.
“In other words, this degree will give students the necessary knowledge and skills to put aging into an interdisciplinary context that will help to improve overall qualify of life for older adults,” Van Dussen said.
The number of older Americans is increasing, and many are concentrated in the Ohio/Pennsylvania region. Nationally, about 13 percent of the U.S. population is 65 or older – about one in every eight American. At 14 percent, Ohio has the 6th largest population of older adults in the United States. In Mahoning County, nearly 18 percent of residents are 65 or older, while the percentage is nearly 17.5 percent in Trumbull and 16 percent in Columbiana. Nearly 15.5 percent of Pennsylvania residents are 65 or older, with 18.5 percent in Mercer and 18.8 percent in Lawrence counties.
Van Dussen said the aging population, coupled with an increase in life expectancy and the decrease in birthrate, will continue to increase both the proportion and number of older adults. From volunteer coordinators in hospice centers and hospitals to home health care employees and case managers for aging-related agencies, gerontology-focused careers will be in high demand, he said.
“The demographic profile of this region indicates a great deal of unmet need and under-education of aging-related professionals,” he added.