A gerontologist is a medical professional who studies and treats conditions related to the aging process. He or she typically works with populations of elderly patients to understand the biological aspects of aging and the various medical and social issues faced by older citizens. Some professionals conduct detailed laboratory research on diseases and aging in general, while others work in hospitals and nursing homes to provide direct care for patients. A gerontologist may also become involved in advocacy or public policy work to help improve health care services for the elderly.
Many clinical and research laboratory scientists specialize in gerontology. They conduct laboratory experiments and organize longitudinal studies to better understand the biological processes that relate to aging. A research gerontologist might investigate living tissue to learn more about cellular development and aging, and determine how to slow the deterioration of mental and physical health. Scientists also test new medications on laboratory animals and clinical trial participants to determine their efficacy and safety. The work of researchers is essential in the development of new and better treatment techniques for elderly citizens.
A gerontologist may also become a licensed physician, specializing in geriatric medicine. Doctors diagnose and treat common conditions in elderly patients, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and osteoporosis. They prescribe medications and educate patients on ways they can better cope with issues related to aging. A gerontologist might arrange for physical therapy sessions or schedule regular checkups to monitor a patient's condition over time. Doctors also provide counsel for a patient's friends and family, and inform them of ways they can help care for their elderly loved one.
Some experienced gerontologists become involved in education and awareness efforts. Experts in sociology, psychology, and medicine identify common problems encountered by elderly people. Gerontologists write informational books and pamphlets, put on clinics for doctors, and speak to the public to raise awareness about issues. Many gerontologists are actively involved in raising money for gerontological research on Alzheimer's disease and related conditions.
Government positions in the field of gerontology are essential in administrative policy-making. These professionals research pertinent issues that affect older citizens, such as access to health care and public services, and advise politicians on creating new policies. They frequently administer surveys, organize statistics, and create detailed reports about the quality of services available to elderly people in a community. These gerontologists push for better regulation on nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and attempts to allocate resources for underfunded programs.