(This story is sponsored by Langara College.)
These days, there is a tendency to place value in the new, the instantaneous, the young. But while our attention spans are getting shorter, our life spans are getting longer. And the truth is, we have more centenarians now than ever before—and that is only expected to increase.
And we are not getting any younger.
In fact, people aged over 65 outnumber those under the age of 14 in Canada. And with this aging population comes a growing need for support services so that our elders can continue to live full and meaningful lives within their communities.
In response to this growing pressure, Langara College has now created a new diploma program in gerontology—the first of its kind in western Canada. Gerontology is the comprehensive multidisciplinary study of aging and older adults and Frances Grunberg , the program creator, spent over a year developing the program curricula, which she believes to be ahead of the curve.
“There’s no program like this and we are very excited about our faculty and courses. We think that we are on the leading edge in terms of understanding aging.”
The two-year interdisciplinary program, starting in September 2018, will combine theory with practice to prepare students to work with a population of older persons from diverse backgrounds.
Jeanette Robertson, an instructor in the program, joined the faculty in December of last year and is extremely impressed by the curriculum.
“It really does approach gerontology through a critical lens in terms of recognizing ageism in society and how that is enacted each day—sometimes unknowingly.”
The program also has a real focus on dealing with all intersections of marginalization.
“Not only would students recognize the impact of aging—in terms of people becoming invisible or infantilized, treated like children, or marginalized—they would also look at gender, class, race, sexual orientation, disability…So they are really coming away from the program with quite a critical lens,” explains Robertson.
Every student will also partake in a one-year-long field placement two days a week, and the hope is that graduates can move directly into these positions.
There are 32 spots in the program and applications are being accepted now. While many programs in B.C. require a degree as a prerequisite, this one has been developed so that a student can enter directly into the study of gerontology and exit with a diploma that would lead to employment.
In addition to an interview, applicants need one college level course or equivalent, two letters of reference, and a minimum of 60 hours of volunteer or work experience in social services.
Program organizers anticipate a diverse group of applicants—from those just out of high school, to retirees who are looking for a new purpose, or even those who are already in a job but are hoping to forge a more meaningful career path.
Entering the program, students should obviously have a desire to work with older adults in social services, but it’s important to note that there is no personal care involved in the gerontology program. Graduates will be similar to social service workers with a specialization in gerontology.
A lot of what this program is hoping to address is a change in attitudes, because ultimately, ageism affects us all on a personal level. Grunberg believes that if society can publicly educate people, they will realize that older adults have so much to offer.
And given that one of the biggest issues older adults face in society is loneliness, there is a real need for people who are willing to listen and support those later in life.
“We need to value the wisdom, the skills, the capacity that older people have in society. And we need to really provide opportunities for them to mentor younger people and to be valuable. Just because you’re 75-years-old does not mean you are not a valuable person,” says Grunberg.
If you are interested in learning more about the gerontology program, Langara College is hosting information sessions from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9 and Tuesday, June 12, in room B149. You can also find full details of the program on the website.