Gerontology: The Study of Aging
So many things to know about aging and yet, people don’t bother to learn about it. We take classes in parenting, why not aging? You start aging right after you stop growing.
“I’m not going to get old.” I hear that constantly from middle-aged to very old people. I usually reply, “the alternative is death.”
Most people want to know what normal aging looks like. Even though around 70% of people over 65 years old have high blood pressure, it’s not considered “normal.” So what people should really be thinking about is preventing chronic conditions and preparing for years with less income.
As a gerontologist, I have to walk the talk
A year as a long-term care ombudsman changed my perspective on aging. Working with the bedridden, wheelchair-bound, or hopelessly alone, made me wonder how far back in time would these people have to go to make changes to course-correct their end-of-life experience? I hope it’s middle age and not childhood.
Middle-aged Americans typically go through everyday life much as always, expecting that lifestyle to carry them through the aging process. Few people want to plan for old age or even discuss it. Typical responses:
I don’t expect to live long – I don’t want to get old.
I plan to just keel over one day or die in my sleep.
My family doesn’t have longevity so I don’t have to worry about it.
Live hard, die young.
Granted, my experience is skewed because I meet more people who need help than those who don’t. But what I’ve seen is enough to motivate me to make an effort.
Live for today but plan for tomorrow
The truth is most people have longer morbidity and more disability than they expected. “Seven of the top 10 leading causes of death are the result of chronic diseases,” according to the CDC. Delaying chronic disease seems to be the best method to increase years of health and independence.
We’re inundated with advice on how to live a healthier life but just look around at Walmart, or even more illustrative, your local casino. People aren’t doing much to be healthy. I want to do as much as I can to prepare for the last part of my life. I think about it in terms of quarters. If you're over 50, you're in the third quarter. It takes conscientiousness to be healthy and happy. I hope this information helps other people to extend their healthspan and enjoy their lives.
Diane Houlton is a gerontologist and was a consultant, care manager, and placement specialist at Aging Plan-it for 4 years. Taking a few gerontology classes at American River College in 2009 led to three associate’s degrees and a master’s degree in gerontology from San Francisco State University in 2014. In preparation to work in the field of aging, she completed internships in assisted living facilities, Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center, and a year as a long-term care ombudsman. In addition, Diane was a Girl Scout volunteer in Rocklin for 19 years and is a proud Air Force daughter, wife, and mother.
San Francisco State University – Gerontology, MA
San Francisco State University – Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) Administrator Certification for four years
California State University Sacramento – Journalism, BA
American River College – Gerontology, AA
Social Science, AA
American Society on Aging (ASA)
Gerontological Society of America (GSA)