Since 2011, Dr. Lois Ricci has served as the instructor for our Gerontology Certificate program. She has worked in the field of aging for nearly 40 years in both the hospital and academic setting as a geriatric nurse practitioner/educator and consultant. We sat down with Lois to learn more about gerontology — the study of aging.
The emergence of gerontology:
Gerontology is one of the fields that has emerged. Forty years ago, gerontology was seen as a secondary part of what social studies and healthcare were about. We know people were getting older, but no one looked at the data and saw the growth.
In 1958, they began the Baltimore Longitudinal Studies. People began to look at how we were aging. The decades grew on, and we saw that people were living past 65. In 1935 when they implemented social security, the expectation was that you lived to be about 65/66 years of age. Now, people are living to be 70-80.
Now in 2018, the fastest growing segment of our population is the 90-year-old. We have 72,000+ people who are over 100. We have health and medical science that has made it possible for people to live better. Not just age, but age with a quality of life. We have opportunities for people.
The issues facing the aging population:
People are beginning to understand it. We have more people going into the field of gerontology. We have more organizations for gerontology.
On the negative side, we also have more silos where organizations and services want to serve older people, but they do not have the money and resources. We have so many good ideas and young people who see the value in the field of aging, but if they contain themselves in these small subsets, we are not going to have the growth that we need.
The growth of gerontology
It is a remarkable feeling.
As a registered nurse in 1965, I was told that if you go into the field of geriatrics, it is because you don’t qualify in the hospital setting. They said you’d be better off going into aging because you don’t need people with good experience, but today you can get a Ph.D. in Geriatrics.
When I became a nurse practitioner, we had to have a master’s degree. Now, they are hoping all nurse practitioners will have a doctorate.
On the Gerontology Certificate program:
I hope students learn about the aging process, the issues facing all that is and will be aging, and the humor of aging. Students learn at their own pace and way. I hope they enjoy the journey and work together on the issues of aging.
On the AJC:
Who would have thought that the AJC would regularly have a whole section dedicated to aging?
I was a trail-setter, and now I see things happen. If I have any regrets, it’s that I am not 30 years younger, and I cannot be a part of what we have made happen to continue to happen but I am teaching others who will continue to do it. We need to carry on and realize that it is our field.