Psychology In Gerontology: History And Characteristics

Psychology in Gerontology is a branch of psychology that has developed a lot in recent years due to the increase in the aging population and its special needs. We tell you here about what psychology can do for the elderly.
Psychology in gerontology: history and characteristics

Psychology is a science that studies, among others, the affective, cognitive, emotional and behavioral areas that are part of the life of human beings. It is divided into multiple branches of specializations. There is one that we will tell you about in this article. It is about psychology in gerontology.

Psychology in gerontology is the science that studies aging from a psychological point of view. So, just as there are child psychologists, there are also psychologists who specialize in the problems of the elderly. In this article, we will try to explain the origin of psychology in geriatrics. We will also talk about its characteristics. In addition, we will show the advantages of having recourse to the advice of a psychologist in gerontology.

The history of psychology in gerontology

There is no historical landmark that allows us to date the birth of psychology in gerontology. However, we have 2 elements. It is about Wundt concerning scientific psychology, in 1879. And of Metchinikoff concerning gerontology, in 1903.

In addition, much attention is now paid to psychology in gerontology. Indeed, the population of developed countries tends to age because the increase in life expectancy has been accompanied by a significant drop in the birth rate in many countries.

Thus, the circumstances themselves have fueled the need to address the psychological needs of older people. This is why the psychological care of this sector of the population has gradually developed.

On the other hand, many researchers have participated in improving our knowledge of psychology in gerontology. One of the most notable figures in this field is Professor James Birren. He has indeed defined psychology in gerontology as the study of the stabilization processes and changes that occur during the aging of an individual. This should include the cognitive, motor and emotional variables of the elderly.

Psychology in Gerontology

Features of psychology in gerontology

Psychology in gerontology is characterized by different elements. Let’s take a look at a few below:

  • The study of the evolution of the cycle of life:  psychology in gerontology goes hand in hand with developmental psychology. The latter studies how we evolve throughout life
  • The promotion of optimal aging:  psychology in gerontology aims to promote health and prevent disease. Or at least to make illnesses more bearable in the elderly
  • Improving the well-being of caregivers who work with the elderly: it therefore takes care not only of the elderly, but also of those around them. In this way, it promotes the well-being of all
  • Education:  thanks to psychology in gerontology, the elderly learn to manage their thoughts, behaviors and emotions
  • Research:  it concerns the elderly in general
  • Support:  several of the treatments offered by psychology in gerontology are based on clinical psychology and social psychology. Both group work and individual psychotherapy techniques are used. Finally, we also work with families and communities for the elderly.
  • Finally, the protection of rights through legal psychology: this aspect is especially important in cases of legal incapacity. In addition, it helps to promote the well-being of the elderly through the promotion and prevention of social services that will focus on their health and their leisure time.

The psychogerontologist: the professional specializing in psychology in gerontology

Professionals dedicated to psychology in gerontology are psychogerontologists. To practice this profession, one must first study psychology. Then specialize in this area.

Nevertheless, psychology in gerontology is not limited to what has been mentioned above. According to the article by Luis SantamarĂ­a in which he talks about the role of the psychogerontologist, he is also involved in the processes of recruitment, evaluation, orientation and training of staff working with the elderly.

Likewise, it investigates society in order to study the needs of the elderly population. For example, through gerontological programs and projects.

Two elderly people walking around

What are the main strengths of this branch of psychology?

They are numerous. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • The assessment, diagnosis, treatment and care of the elderly. Whether they are struggling or wanting to improve their cognitive, emotional, functional, social and behavioral skills
  • The prevention of pathologies and the maintenance of good health in the elderly
  • The objective being to promote the quality of life in recent years
  • Research and teaching in psychology in gerontology. In fact, there is still much progress to be made in this field of study.
  • Advice and guidance to institutions for the elderly
  • Bringing attention to the elderly, family and caregivers
  • The training of professionals, caregivers but also the elderly themselves
  • Socio-legal protection of the elderly
  • Family mediation
  • Prevention of dementia
  • Psycho-stimulation
  • The Emotional Validation Therapy Provision
  • Finally, the organization of support groups

In addition, psychology in gerontology assists in the recruitment, training and prevention of stress in caregivers. Indeed, it is not only a question of supporting the elderly, but also those around them.

The fact that there is a branch of psychology dedicated to the elderly is a good thing for this growing part of the population. Thanks to this discipline, we can approach the elderly in a finer and more efficient way. On the other hand, for the psychologist, it is a vast field of employment opportunities since this specialty is more and more sought after in our society.


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