Gerontological Studies Program

226 Mather Memorial
Phone: 216.368.2703; Fax: 216.368.2676
Dale Dannefer, Program Co-Director

Gary Deimling, Program Co-Director

The Gerontological Studies Program is a multidisciplinary program designed to integrate research and theory about human aging and human development over the life course.

Rapidly occurring social change is compelling social scientists, policymakers, human service professionals, and others to focus on aging as both an individual and global force. Beyond the rapid graying of the world’s population, other frontiers of change include knowledge developments in the biosocial domain (epigenetic and other types of gene-environment interaction), powerful trends in the political and economic spheres (e.g., cumulative dis/advantage, pension policy, generational equity), and cultural changes (e.g., the development of forward-thinking institutional arrangements and the growth of the anti-aging industry).    

Courses are drawn from three departments: Anthropology, Psychological Sciences, and Sociology. Students may choose from a variety of courses according to their own interests. Some approved elective courses are not specifically gerontology courses but cover topics that contribute to the understanding of aging and the life course. The perspectives gained in the core courses will provide the student with the background needed to relate the material in the more general courses to gerontological issues. The program is firmly grounded in the liberal arts and thus provides the student with the challenge to think and communicate effectively and to integrate diverse information, theories, and practice.

Gerontological Studies is an appropriate second major or minor for students with a wide variety of career goals. Persons with baccalaureate degrees in this field are eligible for entry-level positions in organizations that provide health and social services to older people and that formulate policy related to aging and older adults.  For those whose careers will require professional or graduate training, this program can be valuable preparation. This includes pre-health students, especially those with an interest in geriatrics or family practice. It is also excellent preparation for those who are working toward careers in social work, family law, and financial planning. Students planning to pursue these professional degrees will find that an increasing number of their clients or patients will be older adults and problems with which they must deal are related to aging.

Gerontological Studies faculty members are engaged in a variety of funded research projects. These include studies of Alzheimer’s disease; cancer survivorship; health disparities and cumulative dis/advantage over the life course; patterns of care for the elderly; visual perception changes that accompany aging; the impact of high levels of physical activity on the biological aging process; grandparent-grandchild relationships; and stress, coping, and adaptation among institutionalized older adults and elderly residents of urban communities. 

Program Faculty

Dale Dannefer, PhD
(Rutgers University)
Selah Chamberlain Professor of Sociology and Chair, Department of Sociology; Co-Director, Gerontological Studies Program
Aging and the life course; theory; work and family; research methods

Gary T. Deimling, PhD
(Bowling Green State University)
Professor, Department of Sociology; Co-Director, Gerontological Studies Program
Medical sociology; sociology of aging; family sociology

Atwood Gaines, PhD (University of California), MPH (Berkeley)
Professor, Department of Anthropology
Medical and psychiatric anthropology; cultural studies of science and medicine; cultural bioethics; religion; aging and dementia; social identity and health

Brian Gran, PhD (Northwestern University), JD (Indiana University-Bloomington)
Professor, Department of Sociology
Sociology of law; comparative sociology; health care policy; human rights

Eva Kahana, PhD
(University of Chicago)
Distinguished University Professor and Pierce T. and Elizabeth D. Robson Professor of the Humanities, Department of Sociology
Sociology of aging; medical sociology; social factors in stress and coping

Jessica Kelley, PhD
(Purdue University)
Professor, Department of Sociology
Health disparities; sociology of disability; sociology of the life course; race/ethnicity

Undergraduate Programs


The interdisciplinary program in Gerontological Studies offers a major as part of the Bachelor of Arts degree. Gerontological Studies may be selected only as a second major, since the primary major must be based in a traditional academic department. The major consists of a minimum of 30 credits; 9 are in required core courses and 21 are in approved elective courses.  

Required core courses:9
Communication and Aging
Adult Development and Aging
The Life Course
Aging in American Society
Additional courses that will bring the major total to 30 can include any of the courses listed below plus those that are approved by one of the co-directors of Gerontological Studies.21
Health, Culture, and Disease: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology
Health, Illness, and Social Behavior
Sociology of Stress and Coping
Sociology of Institutional Care
Health Care Delivery
Total Units30


Students may also elect a minor in Gerontological Studies. The minor requires a minimum of 15 credit hours, including at least two of the following four courses. 

At least two of the following *6
Communication and Aging
Adult Development and Aging
The Life Course
Aging in American Society
* The remaining nine hours needed to fulfill the minor requirement may consist of any combination of the approved electives and core courses listed for the Gerontological Studies major.9
Total Units15

Graduate Certificate Program in Gerontology

University Center on Aging and Health
1420 Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Phone: 368-2692; Fax: 216-368-6389
Diana L. Morris, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA, Executive Director

The University Center on Aging and Health is dedicated to the premise that aging is a developmental process spanning the entire life cycle, and brings together social and behavioral sciences, health sciences, and the humanities to encourage teaching and research activities in every unit of the university. The center sponsors a certificate program in gerontology for graduate and professional students and for those who already hold graduate degrees.

A student interested in a graduate certificate in gerontology must be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program, or be a special non-degree student with at least a master’s degree (or equivalent). To receive a certificate in gerontology, a student must submit a formal application, be approved by the University Center on Aging and Health, and take 12 credit hours of course work.

The student must complete the following courses:

  1. Two 3-credit courses in gerontology within the student’s discipline, one of which can be an independent study.
  2. One 3-credit course in gerontology or independent study outside the student’s discipline.
  3. A 3-credit seminar in gerontology offered by the center.

Any departures from the requirements must be approved by the center director. For further information, contact the University Center on Aging and Health.


GERO 498. Seminar in Gerontological Studies. 3 Units.

Major themes in gerontology. Seminar members choose a problem area, explore the relevant literature from a multi-disciplinary perspective, and develop a research project using knowledge gained through community observation and library exploration.