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Gerontology studies gain popularity

Studying how to care for the aged gets an education fillip reports Suzanne Hughe

education Updated: Feb 16, 2011 09:15 IST
Suzanne Hughe

In an age of modernity and burgeoning population rates, social welfare has extended far beyond healthcare and has come to include several specialisations, to cover all aspects of human life – from birth to death. In this regard, caring for elderly people is a relatively new area of study in India, given increased life expectancy as a core factor.

Many NGOs are responsible for putting the issue of geriatric care on the map, and the study of gerontology (which is a branch of science dealing with ageing and its associated problems) has led to an increasing focus and attention given to old age care.

Gerontology is an upcoming, specialised field that many institutes in India are now beginning to offer as a course. The government has acknowledged the importance of such courses along with provisioning for one old-age home (with as many as 150 inmates per home) in each district of India.

The course is now being offered in many institutes across the country, and deals with health and wellbeing, psychology and counselling, rehabilitation, public policies related to senior citizens, planning and management, clinical geriatrics etc. It is rapidly gaining value as a field of study, with PG diploma courses being offered by various institutions – from government-associated establishments such as the National Institute of Social Defence (NISD) to private institutes such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). In most institutes, eligibility for the course is a graduate degree.

“The study of geriatrics is in its infancy in India, but we plan to change the way we approach old age care. We do this through full-time courses as well as short-term programmes that enlighten and sensitise others on several key issues regarding helping the elderly – from capacity building, to management of old age homes, dealing with dementia and degenerative diseases associated with ageing, information on micro-credit, to empowering the elderly through provisions of financial security,” says Poonam Rani, research officer, NISD.

NISD provides a one-year PG diploma course in geriatric care for which one has to be a graduate to apply. It also offers a six-month certificate course for which the eligibility is matriculation. Practical training is also usually part of the course.

“Most of our students have alternative medicine backgrounds, and tend to work in NGOs after (the course). Some tend to train at hospitals with geriatric wards, such as AIIMS,” says Sunil Kumar, deputy director, NISD.

“Taking this course changes the way you think about senior citizens, and makes you want to do something concrete to help them,” says Ashwani Kumar, who works in an NGO called Manaswi, which runs a day-care centre for elderly people, apart from offering a few courses in yoga and computer education.

The course is also available at the Delhi University through the Institute of Home Economics (IHE), which provides a PG
diploma in health and social gerontology.

Course Watch
. NISD: A government initiative, it offers a PG diploma (eligibility is a bachelor's degree) and certificate course (eligibility is tenth pass) in geriatric care. Ph: 91
11-26100058, 91-11- 26106325
. TISS: Offers a one-year diploma course in gerontology. Selection procedure includes an interview. Ph.: 91-22-2556 3289, extn. 252 / 237
. University courses: The Institute of Home Economics (IHE) offers a PG diploma in health and social gerontology and comes under the directives of the
University of Delhi. Ph: 91 11 26532402