The 10th anniversary of the Gerontology program at the University of Northern was celebrated on Monday, November 12, with a documentary screening at the Center for Multicultural Education. "You're Looking at me Like I Live Here and I Don't," a documentary focusing on a woman with Alzheimer's disease, was shown to a crowd of about 130 students, faculty, and community members.
Gerontology at UNI started as a certificate program, and the program now offers a major with two tracks and a minor. The aging of the Baby Boom generation has created many employment opportunities and contributed to the growth of the program. Currently, there are approximately 40 Gerontology majors and 40 Gerontology minors at UNI.
"Job prospects for people with a background in aging are good right now, and are only going to improve in the next few years," said Dr. Elaine Eshbaugh, who has coordinated the Gerontology program for about five years. "If you look at the demographics of our country, it's not hard to see that we will have a shortage of individuals to work with older adults."
Students in the Gerontology program participate in internships and community service experiences at local hospices, nursing homes, assisted livings, agencies on aging, adult day centers, non-profit agencies, seniors centers, and home health care agencies.
"We have fantastic students who love working with older adults in the community," said Eshbaugh. "I enjoy hearing about how our students are making a difference in the lives of older adults and their families. It's really rewarding."
Dr. Pat Gross, a faculty member at UNI who was instrumental in developing the program and teaches courses in the major, was present to celebrate the 10 year milestone.
"As an individual who is interested in gerontology, both professionally and personally, I was pleased to see the large number of students who participated in the celebration of the Gerontology major on the UNI campus. As an older adult, I was impressed with the dedication and passion of the budding young professionals who were in attendance at the gathering," said Gross.
Dr. Howard Barnes, director of the School of Applied Human Sciences, and Dr. Brenda Bass, interim Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, gave short speeches at the event. Barnes and Bass have been key figures in the development of the program, which is interdisciplinary and administered by the School of Applied Human Sciences.
UNI currently offers the only undergraduate Gerontology major in the state of Iowa. Students have the opportunity to major in Gerontology: Social Sciences or Gerontology: Long Term Care Administration. Recent graduates have continued on to graduate programs in Gerontology, Public Health, Health Care Administration, and Business Management.
"I hope that the program continues to grow," said Bob Gross, a Cedar Falls community member who attended the event. " 'May it live long and prosper.' "