Anticipating a growing need for elderly services both locally and nationally, Foothill is introducing a certificate program in gerontology, which will provide an "entry level" introduction to the field, said Gertrude Gregorio, dean of Foothill's adaptive learning division.
Baby Boomers, the generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, comprise one of the largest populations in this country's history, according to the U.S. Census, and in 2011 the youngest among them will begin turning 65.
In 2006 the Census Bureau estimated that there were 77.98 million boomers living in the U.S. — 26.1 percent of the population. That same study found that California had more boomers than any other state, nearly 9 million.
As that population ages, geriatric medicine and other fields catering to the elderly will grow, Gregorio said.
"California's workforce will continually be faced with issues related to aging," Gregorio said. Foothill's gerontology program "expands the career path for those that are looking at gerontology and aging related fields (and) opens a lot of doors for those who are looking at working with older adults."
This fall the adaptive learning division will offer two courses covering both the sociology and psychology of aging. Eventually, classes covering health and aging, senior services, senior fitness, and issues of death, dying and bereavement will also be offered.
Gregorio said she hopes the program will attract high school graduates, mid-career individuals and seniors alike.
For incoming freshmen, Gregorio said, the courses will soon be offered in conjunction with general education classes, so students can earn an associate's degree in gerontology; the units they earn will be transferable to four-year institutions.
Those already on a career path — such as nursing, fitness or real estate — who are looking to add a specialty to their resume, might consider the 25-unit certificate program.
Finally, she said, seniors can come take a class to learn more about what to expect in their golden years.
Gregorio said that the school is currently in talks with local health care providers who are interested in partnering with the program and offering internship opportunities.