What Is Geropsychology? 

The field of psychology has grown immensely in recent decades. What began as the study of the adult mind and behavior in 1879 has since expanded to an array of specialties, from military psychology to child psychology and everything in between. It should come as no surprise, then, that there’s a new branch of psychology on the block and it goes by the name of geropsychology. 

This up-and-coming specialty applies a combination of traditional and modern psychological methods to help people aged 65 and older. Whether you’re interested in becoming a psychologist with a focus on the elderly population or you’d simply like to utilize some of its practices in your line of work, today we’re answering the question, “What is geropsychology?” and discussing some of the common topics this specialty addresses. 

Geropsychology: A Brief History 

By the 1950s, psychology had comfortably nestled itself next to many other established specialties in the behavioral sciences. It was during this time that scientists began to study the cognitive and emotional abilities of humans as they entered the latter phase of their lives. 

In the 1970s, more formal training in clinical geropsychology began to improve the lives of older adults as they faced impending hurdles like mental and physical decline or the deaths of loved ones. Clinicians in geropsychology also began counseling the families and communities where the elderly lived to provide insight that could foster a more enjoyable aging process.   

Despite its continual progressions, it wasn’t until 2010 that geropsychology became officially recognized as a specialty in the field of professional psychology. Since then, the need for more practitioners with a specialization in geropsychology has increased. In 2021, the estimated total of people aged 65 and older in the United States was 55,892,014. With the number of elderly adults expected to increase in the coming years, they’re likely to outnumber people under the age of 18 by the year 2034. 

What Issues Does Geropsychology Address? 

Practitioners of gerontology utilize many of the same skills and procedures used by other professionals in the field, including:  

  • Assessing patients through behavioral and environmental observation to understand their decision-making and cognitive abilities. 
  • Completing intervention techniques through individual, group and family therapy and psychological interventions. 
  • Consulting with families, service agencies and legal systems to advocate for their patients. 

 Many individuals use their training and expertise to advise on a variety of relevant topics for aging adults, including: 

Treating Mental Disorders 

As family and friends age, older adults become susceptible to certain mental and neurological disorders. The most common conditions include: 

  • Dementia
    Approximately five percent of the world’s older population suffers from dementia, which affects an individual’s memory, behavior and ability to complete everyday tasks. 
  • Depression
    As adults age and enter their golden years, it becomes more common to experience a decline in health, mourn the loss of family and friends and feel more socially isolated. Because of this, about seven percent of the elderly population experience depression. 

Professionals who work in the field of geropsychology use psychotherapy (counseling) to help older individuals cope with these and other mental health conditions. 

Coping with Chronic Illnesses, Grief and Loss 

It’s only natural that people are more likely to experience certain traumatizing experiences as they age. Whether an older individual is coming to terms with a recent life-altering diagnosis or grieving the loss of a loved one, geropsychology uses methods of intervention to give them tools that can help them come to terms with and embrace these changes in their life.  

Discussing Strategies to Overcome Caregiving Strains 

As the older members of a family continue to age, some eventually require extra care outside of the time-honored tradition of sharing a Sunday evening dinner. When the roles are reversed and a child becomes the caregiver to their parent, it can cause a strain on the relationship.  

Psychologists with a specialization in gerontology can speak with both parties together or counsel each person individually and provide strategies to ease the stress and negative emotions sometimes associated with the reversal of roles. 

Other situations that the specialty of geropsychology often addresses include: 

  • Adjusting to aging-related stressors like family conflicts 
  • Discussing changes in everyday living abilities 
  • Handling end-of-life care 

Make a Difference with UF’s Online Master’s Degree in Gerontology 

With the help of caring and passionate professionals, the outlook for the elderly community becomes infinitely more bright. If you’d like to make a difference in the lives of older adults, the University of Florida’s online master’s degree in gerontology will provide the foundational skills you need to soar in the field of geriatric care. 

Our 30-credit, non-thesis program provides plenty of advantages for working professionals:  

  • An online format that enables you to complete coursework on your timeline. 
  • Competitive tuition rates. 
  • Thorough and up-to-date courses that you can complete in as little as one year. 

 Get the ball rolling on your master’s degree in gerontology by filling out a contact form or applying today. 

Sources:
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00895/full
https://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/geropsychology 
https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-981-287-082-7_258 
https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/cb18-41-population-projections.html
https://www.census.gov/newsroom/stories/older-americans-month.html
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults