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Sonoma State University


Department Office
Stevenson Hall 3075/3092
(707) 664-2586/2411

Program Coordinator
Susan Hillier

Administrative Coordinator
Celeste Lerat

Course Plan / Certificate in Gerontology / Individual Class Descriptions

Programs offered
Minor in Gerontology
Certificate in Gerontology
Career Minor in Health Systems Organization

The study of gerontology provides students with a broad, multidisciplinary perspective to examine the aging process and to understand the significance of age in biological, social, cultural, psychological, and political processes. Participation in the gerontology program encourages students to view aging as a normal part of the life cycle, to become aware of the aging process so that they may view it in others with understanding, and eventually in themselves with equanimity, and to consider work in the field of aging. The program focuses primarily upon the experience of aging in the United States, although comparative analyses of other societies are developed. By applying an integrated liberal arts perspective to the issues, problems, and dilemmas posed by a longer life span and a dramatically increased population of older persons, students develop their critical faculties and problem-solving abilities. The field of gerontology offers students opportunities to engage in first-hand research, to develop conceptual analyses, and to plan community projects, as well as to develop a strong background for career development. Those who already work as volunteers or staff in agencies serving the elderly will find the gerontology program valuable in updating their training.

Students who plan to pursue professional degrees in psychotherapy, medicine, dentistry, nursing, or social work will find that participation in the gerontology program will assist them in understanding the problems of their future clients. Students may choose to complete: (1) the minor in gerontology, (2) a certificate in gerontology, or (3) a special major in gerontology at either the bachelor's or master's levels. In the special major program, students construct individually designed interdisciplinary majors in consultation with the gerontology program coordinator and special major advisor.

Minor in Gerontology

Students must complete the following 22-unit program:

Minor Core Requirements

BIOL 318 Biology of Aging 3
GERN 300 The Journey of Adulthood 3
GERN 319 Aging and Society OR GERN 432 Group Work with Older Adults 4
GERN 499 Gerontology Practicum 4
GERN 421 Psychology of Aging 4
Total units in the minor core 18

Minor Electives

Choose courses to total a minimum of 4 units from the following list:
AMCS 435 Ethnicity and the Life Cycle (3)
BIOL 224 Human Physiology (3)
BIOL 380 Human Nutrition (4)
GERN 304 Sibling Relations (4)
GERN 312 Adult Development Lecture Series (2)
GERN 317 Emotions and Adult Life
GERN 332 Death and American Culture (4)
GERN 408 Transitions in Adult Development (4)
GERN 422 Living and Dying (3-4)
GERN 452 Health Care and Illness (4)
GERN 493 Narrative: Theories & Methods (4)
NURS 493 Health Care Delivery and Financing (3)
KIN 360 Physiology of Exercise (4)
KIN 410 Lifespan Motor Development (3)
NURS 504A Health Care Delivery and Financing (2)
NURS 504B Health Care Delivery and Financing (2)
PSY 404 Psychology of Women (4)
Total units in minor electives: 4
Total units in the minor: 22

Certificate in Gerontology

The 28-unit certificate program is open to those students who are completing or who have received a bachelor's degree.

Certificate Core Courses

BIOL 318 Biology of Aging 3
GERN 300 The Journey of Adulthood 3
GERN 319 Aging and Society OR GERN 432 Group Work with Older Adults 4
GERN 499 Gerontology Practicum 8
GERN 421 Psychology of Aging; or
GERN 500 Social and Psychological Issues in Aging 4
Total units in the certificate core 22

Certificate Electives

Choose courses to total a minimum of 6 units from the minor electives list above.

Total units in the certificate electives 6
Total units in the certificate 28

Gerontology Courses (GERN)

Classes are offered in the semesters indicated. Please see the Schedule of Classes for most current information and faculty assignments.

300 The Journey of Adulthood (3) Fall, Spring

Introduces the study of aging from biological, psychological, sociological, and environmental perspectives. Aging is presented as a normal stage of development with both positive and negative aspects. Specific issues discussed include: health care, housing, income maintenance, and advocacy. Satisfies GE, category E (The Integrated Person).

304 Sibling Relationships (4) Fall

An exploration of the role of siblings to personal and family development, with a focus on sibling relationships in adulthood and later life. An emphasis will be placed on the psyco-social context of the sibling relationship in addition to theories of the psychology of the individual. Cross-listed as PSY 304.

305 Issues in Gerontology (2-4)

Focuses on contemporary issues and topics in gerontology. Selected issues incorporating historical, cultural, social, psychological, and policy perspectives may be offered. Consult Schedule of Classes for the specific topic and current unit offering. May be repeated for credit.

312 Adult Development Lecture Series (2) Fall

Lectures and presentations on thematic issues in the field of adult development and aging. Speakers are drawn from local community programs, Bay Area research organizations, and academic disciplines. May be repeated for credit. Cross-listed as PSY 312.

317 Emotions and Adult Life (3)

Emphasizes the social context and social development of emotional responses throughout adulthood. Analyzes the reciprocal relations between social definitions and subjective feelings in connection with life events throughout adulthood. Addresses both basic emotions, such as fear, anger, pleasure, and excitement, and more complex emotions, such as love, jealousy, grief, sympathy, pride, shame, and despair. Cross-listed as SOCI 317.

319 Aging and Society (3-4) Spring

Examination of aging throughout adulthood. Analysis of theories of aging, their foundations in social science theory, and their policy implications. Exploration of the meanings and consequences of increasing longevity for society and the individual, with emphasis on the social psychological implications for women, minorities, and those who are poor. Satisfies GE, category D1 (Individual and Society). Cross-listed as SOCI 319.

332 Death and American Culture (4)

The relation of cultural values to practices, attitudes, and views about death. Application of sociological and psychological theories to topics on death and dying, such as death conceptions, terminal care, suicide, war, and grief. Emphasis on the social psychology of dying, caregiving, grieving, and being suicidal. Cross-listed as SOCI 332.

399 Student-Instructed Course (1-4)

A course designed by an advanced student, approved by the gerontology program, and taught by the student under the supervision of his/her faculty sponsor. Consult the Schedule of Classes for topic to be studied. May be repeated for credit.

408 Transitions in Adult Development (4) Spring

Transitions are key events in adulthood because they require change. This course explores how women and men experience and shape the changes that occur as they mature socially and psychologically. Inquiry includes normative life cycle transitions as well as unexpected, unusual, or off-time transitions and develops understandings of how these transitions shape the development of an individual through adulthood and later life. Cross-listed as PSY 408. Prerequisite: junior standing.

421 Psychology of Aging (4) Fall

Analysis of psychological development as a lifelong process. Examination of theories of psychological growth in later life. Exploration of the role of memory for learning and psychological functioning. Study of issues in mental health in adulthood. Cross-listed as PSY 421.

422 Living and Dying (4) Spring

This course explores personal values and attitudes about life and death and seeks to understand them in relation to our own psychology and to the larger social context. Topics of separation and loss, loss as a transformative process, aging, the dying process, bereavement, suicide, homicide, near-death experiences, mythology, and immortality will be addressed. Cross-listed as PSY 422.

432 Group Work with Older Adults (4) Spring

This service-learning course introduces students to the fundamentals of group work with older adults. The class provides an overview of the phases of group development and basic skills and techniques for facilitating effective groups. Theoretical perspectives from sociology and psychology are used to examine how groups function, the value they have for older adults, and common themes in groups for older adults. To enhance learning, students go to senior sites in the community to cofacilitate weekly, intergenerational dialogue groups. Cross-listed as Sociology 432 and Psychology 432.

438 Psychological Aspects of Disability (3-4) Irregularly Scheduled

This course is designed to give participants a better understanding of people with disabilities and an awareness of how society regards them. The disabilities addressed range from traumatic physical injuries through progressive diseases and conditions to mental retardation, alcoholism, and emotional disabilities. The class is appropriate for anyone interested in disability, whether for personal or professional reasons. Cross-listed as PSY 438.

452 Health Care and Illness (4) Fall, even years

A dual focus on the social organization of health care and the social psychology of illness. Analyses of the structure of care, patient-practitioner relationships, and treatment ideologies. Emphasis on the patient's experience of illness, intimate relationships, and self-images. Cross-listed as SOCI 452.

482 Teaching Internship (1-4) Fall, Spring

Students learn the skills of organization and communication of psychological theory and research under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Prerequisites: GERN 300 and consent of instructor. A maximum of 12 units of special study and internship credit may be applied as supporting units.

490 Internship Seminar (1)

In this optional seminar, students report on the progress of their internships and discuss institutional procedures and interactional processes particular to their intern sites. Case and data management techniques will be discussed. The seminar allows opportunity for group problem-solving, objective analysis of internship issues, and enhancement of professional networks. Requirements: concurrent enrollment in GERN 499 and consent of instructor.

493 Narrative: Theory & Methods (4) Spring

The course examines the role of narrative, or life storying, in human development research. Students will develop a protocol, conduct research in the community using interview methodologies appropriate to the narrative perspective, analyze transcriptions for theoretical and life themes, and develop a final project based on the analysis of the data. Cross-listed as PSY 493.

495 Special Studies (1-4) all, Spring

Students may propose to participate in independent projects or continuing research with the approval and guidance of the faculty member. The special study may extend for more than one semester. May be repeated for credit.

497 Interdisciplinary Seminar (2-4) Irregularly Scheduled

Explorations of basic human problems as reflected in the arts, humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences. Resource persons from other disciplines will participate.

499 Gerontology Practicum (1-4) Fall, Spring

Field experience in an agency or organizational setting in which the student combines work with academic preparation in programs concerned with aging and/or health. A-F or Cr/NC.

500 Social and Psychological Issues in Aging (2-4)

Analysis of the aging process and its social implications. Selected issues provide exploration of relationships between psychological and social development in later life. Developmental, historical, cultural, psychological, and policy perspectives may be offered. Consult Schedule of Classes for specific topic. Cross-listed as PSY 500. Prerequisite: graduate standing or permission of instructor. May be repeated for credit.

515 Graduate Research Seminar (2-4) Fall, Spring

Intensive review of literature in specific areas of concentration. Emphasis is on individual student's research interests. Includes research design and implementation. Prerequisite: graduate standing or permission of instructor.

561 Politics of Health and Aging (4)

An examination of U.S., state, and local health care and aging policy and administration. Cross-listed as POLS 509.

582 Teaching College Gerontology (1-4)

Practical experience of supervised teaching in a college gerontology classroom. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

583 Graduate Research Assistant (1-4)

Students learn advanced research methods and practical research skills under the supervision of a faculty member. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.