With 18 percent of Florida’s population consisting of people who are 65 years of age or older, a new research has erupted in gerontology. Now USF students and faculty have the opportunity to participate in nationwide studies with the recent opening of the School of Aging Studies. The new school, affiliated with the College of Arts and Sciences, was officially recognized as an academic school this summer.
Headed by William Haley, the new school encompasses three pre-existing institutions at USF: the Institute on Aging, the department of Gerontology and the Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging.
Haley said these three departments once operated on an individual basis, but since the merging of these entities, USF has become the second university in the nation to have a school focused on the study of aging, other than University of Southern California.
This semester, the interest in gerontology courses has increased more than 50 percent, with close to 1,500 students taking at least one course in aging studies, Haley said.
Many of the courses count as liberal arts electives, with classes such as Introduction to Gerontology, the Psychology of Aging, Death and Dying, and Socio-Cultural Aspects of Aging.
“The 12 member faculty is now able to better coordinate. Their research is focusing mainly on researching cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s Disease, adjusting public policy toward the aging population and chronic illnesses, disability and end of life issues,” Haley said.
Many of the professors are engaged in extensive studies with federal grants, research teams, and important publications, Haley said, and faculty works closely with top researchers at USF.
Haley said students who want practical experience with the elderly can apply for internships through the School of Aging Studies, and there are only a few requirements, he said. Usually two courses in the study of gerontology are mandatory, and any of the above listed will suffice.
“Students from many majors require some knowledge of the elderly,” Haley said. “Nurses may deal with them full time, attorneys often deal with the elderly and their wills, and so on.”
A demand has emerged at USF for studies of the elderly, Haley said and the school has complied by providing an intricate, thorough program that not only offers undergraduate degrees, but also has students working at the masters and doctorate levels.
“Every student is encouraged to experience some aspect of this new school, be it through classes, lectures, studies or information that will soon be distributed throughout the school,” Haley said.