ASA is the essential resource to cultivate leadership, advance knowledge, and strengthen the skills of those who work with, and on behalf of, older adults.

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Online Gerontology Courses Aid Teams in Helping Older Adults
posted 12.07.2015

At the core of ASA’s mission is the intention to be an essential resource that cultivates leadership, advances knowledge and strengthens the skills of its members, to help them better serve elders, thus improving their quality of life.

That mission spurred our decision in November 2014 to collaborate with USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and provide online courses in gerontology. To date, four course sessions have been held, and four more are scheduled, one that already started Oct. 19, and three more starting Jan. 25, April 4 and June 13, 2016. Nearly 500 ASA members enrolled and completed the initial sessions offered.

“ASA’s ‘Fundamentals of Gerontology’ was a great experience,” said Charlene Depner, Ph.D., who is assistant director at the Center for Families Children and the Courts in Oakland, Calif. “The content was rich and engaging. This course was a high-value investment in my professional development.”

Due to the popularity of that first five-week course, "Fundamentals in Gerontology," we’ve added a second five-week course called "Health and Wellness in an Aging Society." There are four sessions of that course scheduled also, one that already started Oct. 19, and three more starting Jan. 25, April 4 and June 13, 2016.

We have noticed a pattern in course subscriptions, one that indicates that this curricula can have a potentially positive impact on how organizations work with older adults.

Out of the 39 organizations that signed up employees to complete the courses, three have signed up more than 10 employees, two organizations have signed up more than five and the rest, on average, have two to four people engaged in this online learning per group.

Nancy Gonzalez is a regional director for LifeSteps, a nonprofit organization that provides social services at affordable housing communities. Gonzalez supervises 12 directors of social services, one regional supervisor and 8 instructors for 49 affordable housing communities in Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties. The course was offered to many LifeSteps employees, and all seven of the people in Gonzalez’ workgroup are taking the “Fundamentals in Gerontology” course.

Gonzalez says she feels it’s important to become more knowledgeable about trends such as aging in place so she can share this information with her staff. She also found the information on hearing loss, social isolation and their ties to dementia to be particularly illuminating and worthy of sharing within the LifeSteps organization.

A government analyst in the Office of Strategic Initiatives at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Katie Bueno is one of 14 employees there who took the “Fundamentals in Gerontology” course. Bueno has a masters degree in demography and completed an internship in aging studies while in graduate school. Her employers offered the course to staff, and Bueno says she enrolled because she wanted more of an understanding about gerontology, as she had begun her job not knowing much about diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“It has been really helpful,” Bueno says, as the course content helps her to come up with great ideas for how to better evaluate and plan effective programs for older adult clients. “I’m trying to become an expert in the aging network and need to understand my population. When I get a data set of 500,000 people and get answers to survey sets, I need to understand why things are happening,” Bueno adds. She now uses what she has learned in the USC course to assess what’s to be expected with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, what’s not and how best to proceed with programming.

“The three people taking the course work closely together every day, and we discuss all the things we’ve learned in the past week,” Bueno reports, and then they use the information, as a team, to build better programs.

“Fundamentals” covers the basics of gerontological concepts, plus practical and theoretical perspectives to help ASA members gain a broader understanding of the field of gerontology. ASA members earn a certificate of completion from USC when they finish the course.

“Health and Wellness” will cover the common health issues faced by older adults, public health in an aging world and the strategies for caring for older adults who have various health challenges. Modules will cover demography, chronic disease, managing self-care, dementia and mental health, and medication management.

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