One for the aged

Undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students of the USF School of Aging Studies and the Department of Aging and Mental Health were able to discuss new developments in the field of gerontology and network with potential employers at Aging Exchange Day 2005 yesterday.

“(The) career fair (provides) a showcase of all different aspects that you get by being part of a university, being trained at a university and what’s out there in the real world,” said Jennifer Salmon, assistant professor in the School of Aging Studies and a coordinator of the day’s events.

The day was hosted by the Gerontology and Aging Studies Alumni Society and the School of Aging Studies at the Westside Conference Center on the USF campus. According to the schedule of events, attendees were able to participate in a career fair featuring agencies like the Alzheimer’s Association, the Elder Justice Center and the Hillsborough County Department of Aging Services.

Two different panels were presented during the day. First, a USF faculty panel entitled “Impact of Hurricanes on the Aged and Aging Service Providers” presented research from various studies on the subject.

“All three studies that were reported on happened very quickly,” Salmon said. “We took advantage of the opportunity of having five named storms come through our state and realized this was significant and there’s an opportunity to do research.”

The second panel, comprised of alumni, was entitled “Crafting Your Own Career in Gerontology,” and it discussed how students must find their own niche in the field.

“You take (yourself) wherever you go professionally,” said Rosemarie Lamm, an instructor at the USF Lakeland campus. “(You take) whoever you are, whatever you are and you meld it with whoever you are and you advance and you carry the message.”

Research posters on a wide variety of topics dealing with the elderly were on display for judging, and awards were given at the end of the day.

Honorable mention was awarded to Giyeon Kim for her project comparing depression in young, middle-aged and elderly adults. Second place was awarded to Elizabeth Perkins for the study “Individual Differences in Well-Being in Older Breast Cancer Survivors.” First place was awarded to C.A. Mingo for the project “The Impact of Race and Diagnostic Label on Perceptions of Older Adults With Arthritis.”

USF’s master’s program in gerontology was the first offered in the United States, and the School of Aging Studies conferred its 1,000th degree last December, Salmon said.

Gerontology differs from geriatrics, Salmon said, in that gerontology is the study of aging from a social perspective, while geriatrics deals with aging from a medical perspective.

As with any other field, the students who study gerontology enjoy working with the elderly.

“Usually they have a very positive experience with one or more older people and they just seem to like older people. Some of them do it because they look around at the demographics living here in Florida and they can see that obviously there is a job opportunity. I think the biggest reason is because they have had a good experience and they’re interested,” Salmon said.