We live in times of professional reinvention. People of all ages are looking for new jobs and new ventures. There are new challenges in new pandemic times.
I have long argued that the Silver Economy is a vast field of opportunities, of challenges that make it possible to improve the world, to improve the lives of people, especially the most fragile, and to make a living; to make money out of it. Gerontology is thus the science of the future.
It is necessary to begin with a clarification: gerontology is not a concept, far from it, synonymous with geriatrics.
Gerontology is the interdisciplinary science that studies the various aspects of individual old age and the ageing of a population. At the individual level, from a holistic perspective, it considers ageing from conception to death.
In a more limited sense and with the priority objective of the functional-corporal care of the elderly person, geriatrics is a medical speciality that prevents and treats the effects of the passage of time, of ageing, on the human body. It is therefore limited to the medical, health and hospital aspects, etc., in order to improve the person's condition.
It is to be expected that gerontology will become increasingly central in our society: population ageing, linked to the economic dimension of the challenge of longevity and the social challenges of this phenomenon (health, pensions, care, etc.), places the elderly at the epicentre of any debate on the future of humanity.
The COVID 19 pandemic has done its own thing: retirement homes, the loneliness of the elderly and the challenge of care for the elderly in empty Spain have been the subject and central element of papers and documents, transmedia documentaries, debates and pandemic stories.
In this way, this fashionable scientific orientation (just take a look at the contents of the media or the diversity of works on the shelves of bookshops, both physical and digital) analyses the aspects of the elderly in the care of the elderly:
It is clear that this gerontological dimension demands and requires close collaboration with the geriatric physician.
In the coming years, and we can already see it, biometrics and the use of wearables (bracelets, watches and the like) will be of great help in controlling the quality of life and monitoring the ageing of older adults. Gerontology and geriatrics in close collaboration, thanks to the technology involved.
Social. Its main objective is to keep the elderly person within the family (as we said in the previous point), if necessary, or in their own home (if that is where they want to be), but socialising and interacting in society. Social gerontology studies the role and participation of older adults in society, seeking intergenerationality.
Changes in lifestyles mean that family members are not always in a position to provide the required care for the elderly, which makes it necessary to plan care and its provision, with public-private partnerships between companies and home care institutions, etc.
The existence of a network of residential homes and other housing approaches (senior cohousing and any living options that provide quality of life for the elderly, socialising and in/with the best health care at home, however that may be) will be another source of employment for gerontology.
In this field, gerontology will be concerned with:
The development of a welfare and care system at all levels, which addresses the multiple alterations and medical-social problems of older adults, which can lead to the loss of autonomy and independence of the elderly.
The mobilisation of all resources to achieve an intergenerational society.
The organisation of long-term care for the elderly in need, of whom there will be more and more.
Research, teaching and continuous training of all types of professionals required socially for the new demographic reality.
Social policies, social work, sociology of longevity, occupational therapies and other related sciences and technical approaches. All have great potential for the future.
It is worth mentioning environmental gerontology, an area of knowledge of gerontology that aims to understand, analyse, modify and optimise the relationship between the ageing person and their physical-social environment, from perspectives and approaches that encompass different disciplines such as the geography of ageing, urban planning and the design of "senior-friendly" cities, with accessible architecture and design.
Consequently, there is and will be employment in gerontology as a consequence of longevity, both in the public and private sector.
There will also, of course, be employment in geriatrics as a medical discipline. This is the speciality dedicated to the study of the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of diseases in the elderly. Its main characteristics are:
Gerontologists and geriatricians will analyse, together, the different age groups according to demographic profile, epidemiological profile (the obsession with possible future pandemics will keep us busy to prevent the disaster of 2020 from happening again), health determinants and risk factors and public policies, among other things.
There are jobs and there is a future in the world of longevity.
Caring for the well-being of older adults, in short, is caring for social well-being. Working on everything that can affect the standard of living and happiness of the elderly is a wonderful challenge for humanity in the long-lived society of the 21st century.