Geriatricians vs. Gerontologists: What’s the Difference?
Compliance and Credentials Coordinator
While the terms gerontology and geriatrics are often used interchangeably, several differences exist between these two fields. Geriatrics is a specialty in medicine involving the study and treatment of illness and diseases within the elderly community, while gerontology is an all-encompassing study of aging.
While they are two different fields, they share the same goal — improving the quality of life for older adults. Learn more similarities and differences between these two elderly care types and the importance of gerontologists in an increasingly aging population.
What Is Gerontology?
Gerontology is the study of old age, the process of aging and the impacts of aging on the population. The multidisciplinary research is ell-encompassing and covers various aspects of aging, from physical and mental changes to the social changes associated with growing old.
Researchers and practitioners in the field of gerontology are often well-versed in several areas, such as:
- Sociology and social sciences
- Public health and policy
Further, gerontology looks into the processes of bodily changes associated with aging and the societal changes of an aging population. Gerontologists can apply their knowledge to various programs and public policies from these perspectives. Gerontologists perform a supportive function in educating other about aging while researching and understanding aging.
Sub-disciplines of gerontology include:
- Biogerontology: Biological gerontologists study aging at the cellular and molecular levels. Researchers in biogerontology examine changes in cells and tissues as we age.
- Social gerontology: Focuses on the social and societal aspects associated with aging. Researchers in the field will look closely at the relationships between older adults and their families, caregivers and society on a larger scale. They’ll also identify ways aging affects social roles and work to develop programs and public policies to improve the lives of older adults.
- Biomedical gerontology: Biomedical gerontologists study the origins of aging and age-related diseases. Researchers will also investigate ways to intervene in the aging process and how to slow, prevent and reverse it.
- Environmental gerontology: Environmental gerontology is the study of how older adults interact with their physical and social environments. Researchers will seek to identify the external factors that allow healthy aging. They might also work to optimize the relationship between older adults and their environments by making their surroundings more age-friendly.
- Jurisprudential gerontology: Jurisprudential gerontology combines law and gerontological concepts. Researchers identify how law plays a part in aging by examining the interactions between society, law, aging and public policies.
What Is Geriatrics?
Geriatrics is a medical specialty focusing on the care of elderly people. As we age, our cells, tissues and organs change and put us at risk of chronic disease. Common diseases and conditions that can occur as a result of age include:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Older adults might also experience high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis, which are conditions that can affect daily tasks. For this reason, geriatricians provide care to address the individual needs of elderly patients.
What Is a Geriatrician?
A geriatrician is a medical doctor or clinician focused on diagnosing, treating and preventing age-related conditions and diseases. Geriatricians will also tailor care to the unique needs of elderly patients and provide services such as:
- Helping patients manage chronic illnesses.
- Addressing mobility issues and frailty.
- Offering guidance on medications.
- Providing support for caregivers and families of elderly patients.
- Offering hospice care for people with terminal illnesses.
Geriatricians will usually practice in hospitals, outpatient clinics or skilled nursing facilities. They’re often internal medicine doctors who work with other healthcare providers to develop care plans for elderly patients with various health problems.
Geriatrics vs. Gerontology
While geriatrics and gerontology are similar when it comes to the population they work with, they have a few key differences.
Gerontology examines various physical, mental and social changes that occur due to aging. They might work, plan, research and even educate people on the topic while studying all aspects of aging.
In contrast, geriatricians specialize in elderly care and are often medical doctors. They focus on preventing, diagnosing and treating age-related diseases and conditions. Geriatricians coordinate overall care with other physicians and guide the patient in making treatment choices.
The training that goes into becoming a geriatric doctor 33
v651+5s. a gerontologist is also different. To become a geriatrician, you must complete medical school and a residency in geriatrics. On the other hand, gerontologists don’t face one single path — professionals usually have various backgrounds, from sociology and psychology to anthropology, biology or medicine.
While both fields involve aging and the overlap between the sub-disciplines, they take different approaches to studying the process. Geriatrics focuses on the individual, while gerontology takes a broader approach. Geriatricians seek to understand the aging process to treat diseases and conditions. In contrast, gerontology takes a multidisciplinary approach to understand aging through social, biological and psychological perspectives.
The Importance of Gerontologists
The rise of the elderly population only increases the importance of gerontologists today. In 1960, just 9% of the population was made up of those over 65 years old. By 2020, it was at 17% and the elderly population is expected to climb to 22% by 2050. The importance of gerontologists is felt on a social, physical, economic and psychological level:
- Medical advancements: By studying the physical aspects of aging, gerontologists have broadened the research in this field and provided powerful insights into the interactions between age and disease. As a result, we can develop preventive measures and rehabilitative treatments to help older adults live a better quality of life.
- Positive social shifts: Gerontology has helped drive public policy and put gerontological concepts in the public eye. For these reasons, debates about government funding for social security and Medicare are increasingly highlighted in the mainstream. Further, through the work of gerontologists, the variety of senior living care and communities have significantly grown to help elderly people live comfortable and fulfilling lives.
- Psychological insights: Gerontologists provide essential insight into age-related mental health conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Therefore, researchers are learning new ways to prevent and treat older patients suffering from various mental issues.
Learn More About Gerontology Services at Corewood Care
Gerontologists and geriatricians provide crucial care for aging and elderly people. By studying the aging process, healthcare providers can determine helpful methods of treating age-related diseases and conditions. They might also discover ways to prevent common illnesses that occur due to the aging process.
We’ve seen vast improvements in treating and caring for an increasingly aging population through these critical fields of work. When you have a family member who requires gerontology-based services, trust Corewood Care. We specialize in care management and home care for seniors and provide around-the-clock assistance and rehabilitation for acute medical illnesses.
We look forward to helping your loved one maintain a healthy and happy quality of life. To learn more or schedule a free assessment, get in touch with us today.