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Geriatricians vs Gerontologists: What’s the Difference?

I have learned more about the issues facing our seniors dealing with the current healthcare system. I have witnessed chronic, non-acute conditions that plague seniors like spattered falls, non – acute ,carpal tunnel, pneumonia, eye infections, and other incidental events. The on-going frustration of chronic conditions can often be mitigated (if not cured) by conscious, often low-tech management. The total package adds up to one unhappy, frightened aging adult whose days are very long, ever confining and less active, without anything but worse days ahead.

Geriatricians

Geriatricians are fully trained physicians, M.D.s or D.O.s, who specialize in treating the health problems of elderly patients. To become a geriatrician, a doctor must first complete a three-year residency and become board-certified in either internal medicine or family medicine. Next, the doctor goes on to a one- or two-year fellowship in an approved program of geriatrics, learning the specialized requirements of elderly patients under the supervision of an experienced practitioner. After fulfilling the fellowship requirement, the doctor must write another set of board examinations to become certified as a geriatrician.

Gerontologists

Gerontology is the scientific study of aging, as well as its effect on individuals and cultures. It’s a multi-disciplinary field, including aspects of medicine, biology, psychology and sociology and other sciences. Some gerontologists are researchers, helping to interpret new findings in microbiology and biochemistry that might unlock the physiological secrets of the aging process. Others are caregivers, working directly with elders and their families. Still others are administrators and policy-makers at the community or government level. Improving quality of life for seniors, individually or collectively, is the common goal of gerontologists. Senior roles in gerontology require a graduate or doctoral degree, though some schools offer baccalaureate programs for entry-level gerontological work.

Similarities and Differences

The primary difference between the two professions is that geriatricians are fully-trained physicians, and provide direct treatment for age-related disorders. Gerontologists play a more supportive and educational role, though applied gerontologists might build long-term relationships with their clients that include coordinating diet, exercise and cognitive therapies. Geriatricians, registered nurses, social workers, psychologists and other caregivers can earn credentials in gerontology through coursework and continuing education, broadening and deepening their skills in caring for the elderly. Gerontologists and geriatricians might work side-by-side in research or elder-care facilities, each bringing specialized knowledge and skills to the plan of care.

Outlook

As the Baby Boom generation ages, services for the elderly will become an increasingly important part both of health care and society as a whole. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the aging population as a factor in many employment forecasts, including a projected 24 percent increase in the number of physicians between 2010 and 2020. Gerontologists are harder to quantify because they’re spread across many academic and health care disciplines, but the Mississippi Health Careers Center cites a 36 percent increase in demand for them over the short term.

The field of study, techniques and methodologies involved and the career prospects all differ for both Gerontology and Geriatrics. The former helps to predict the life expectancy of a society whereas the latter helps to improve and increase the life expectancy of older people by promoting their health conditions by providing them various treatments and care.

The field of study, techniques and methodologies involved and the career prospects all differ for both Gerontology and Geriatrics. The former helps to predict the life expectancy of a society whereas the latter helps to improve and increase the life expectancy of older people by promoting their health conditions by providing them various treatments and care.