What is Gerontology?

Gerontology is the study of aging across the life course. It is interdisciplinary in its approach, incorporating information from the fields of biology, psychology, sociology, family studies, health education, nutrition, pharmacy, and many others. Gerontology research projects at Purdue University are helping to understand the basic mechanisms of aging and the maintenance of independence in later life. Current studies of aging cover a wide range of topics including, but not limited to, health dynamics, cognition, disease prevention, retirement preparation, and financial security.

Why Study Gerontology?

Gerontology represents an intellectually exciting field of study in which students can integrate information from diverse fields of inquiry. The interdisciplinary nature of the program is consistent with recommendations by the National Research Council that schools broaden the education graduate students receive in order to make them more valuable in the workplace.

Why Study Gerontology at Purdue?

Purdue University was founded in 1869 as Indiana's link in the nationwide chain of land-grant universities. With an enrollment of nearly 50,000 students, Purdue is one of the 50 largest universities in America. A variety of distinguished graduate and professional programs are offered at Purdue University, ranging from biochemistry and pharmacy to psychology and family studies. Recent national surveys rank many of the University's graduate programs among the country's top 20. An internationally renowned faculty at Purdue University is engaged in research which is supported by over $500 million annually in grants and contracts.

The Center on Aging and the Life Course was founded July 1, 2003, and offers the world’s first dual-title gerontology PhD program. The Center on Aging and the Life Course emphasizes "the long view" in the study of aging.

Purdue’s Gerontology Program is a campus-wide unit involving over 50 faculty in 20 different departments. The program contains sufficient flexibility to accommodate diverse interests, and presents students with a comprehensive overview of the field of gerontology.

Beyond classroom instruction, students benefit from working with Purdue University faculty in research projects and/or fieldwork activities. Research projects related to aging have been supported by a variety of sources including the National Institute on Aging, Retirement Research Foundation, United States Department of Education, AARP Andrus Foundation, American Federation for Aging Research, and Walther Medical Research Foundation.

What are my options?

At Purdue University, the Gerontology Program of the Center on Aging and the Life Course offers three post-baccalaureate educational opportunities for the study of aging.

Dual-Title PhD in Gerontology

Students may enroll in the groundbreaking dual-title PhD in gerontology. This degree program links the disciplinary depth of a traditional PhD with the interdisciplinary breadth of gerontology. Students are admitted through and meet all course requirements in their home department, while taking courses in aging in at least three disciplines and focusing their dissertation on an aging related issue or problem. For more information, go here.

Graduate Minor in Gerontology

A traditional approach has been to offer a special course of study in addition to a discipline-based degree, resulting in a minor. Students enrolled in the program are required to complete 15 credit hours of approved courses from at least three departments. The gerontology minor is compatible with any masters or doctoral degree offered by Purdue University. By planning ahead, many students are able to obtain a minor in gerontology with no additional expenditure of time and money. For more information, go here.

Graduate Certificate in Gerontology

Designed for professionals in the field of aging, the graduate certificate introduces the interdisciplinary study of aging through core courses. Practitioners will enhance their knowledge of the aging process and the issues facing an aging population by exposure to the latest research and applications. For more information, go here.

Can I take these classes online?

Some CALC Faculty Associates are starting to offer online options. Generally, the courses connected with the Gerontology Program are not offered online.

How do I get started?

Admission to the Dual-Title PhD and Graduate Minor begin with admission to the Graduate School through a home department. For information about admission to the Certificate Program, contact (calc@purdue.edu) or call 765-494-9692.

What departments offer Gerontology options?

A gerontology minor can be incorporated into nearly any Masters or PhD plan of study. The departments partnering with the gerontology program for the dual-title PhD include:

  • Anthropology
  • Communication
  • Health and Kinesiology
  • Human Development and Family Science
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition Science
  • Pharmacy Practice
  • Psychological Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

How do I apply to be a part of the Gerontology Program?

Once you have been admitted to the Graduate School in your home discipline, you may fill out this application, obtain the signature of your major professor, and send it to the CALC office. An interview with the director of the program will be scheduled to discuss your interests.

Do I get a diploma from CALC for a "Gerontology" PhD or does it say "(HDFS) and Gerontology"?

The dual-title PhD in gerontology and a related discipline is a dual-title degree, not two PhD degrees. Diplomas for the dual-title PhD state your home discipline and gerontology.

How do I know if my advisor or other professor is a CALC affiliate?

All faculty associates are listed on the CALC webpage, here, along with information on their teaching and research interests.

What if my current adviser is not a faculty associate of CALC?

Your advisor need not be a faculty associate of CALC if you pursue the gerontology minor. To earn a dual-title PhD in gerontology and a related discipline, however your advisor or co-advisor must be a faculty associate. In addition, your dissertation committee must include at least one member from another department.

What funding opportunities does CALC offer?

CALC students have the opportunity to compete with other interdisciplinary students for the Bilsland Fellowship through the Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate programs. In addition, various research grants held by Faculty Associates often have research assistantships.

CALC funds part of the travel expenses to attend the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Meeting each November for those students who help staff our booth in the exhibit hall. Occasionally, funds are made available for summer research workshops and conferences.

What classes can I take?

The courses approved for the gerontology program are listed here. Please note that some are unconditionally approved and another group is dependent on content and instructor. A third group requires a student petition.

Where do I submit a request for a class to apply to my plan of study?

Students may propose additional courses, including independent study, to be used in completing the Dual-Title PhD or Graduate Minor. Credit hours may also be transferred from another university, provided the criteria set by the Purdue University Graduate School are met. Up to seven credit hours may be approved by petition to the CALC Steering Committee.

  • Download Credit Petition Policies here.
  • Download the petition form here.

The director will contact you with the decision following review by the CALC Steering Committee.

How do I know I have fulfilled the required credits?

Frequent contact with your major professor is important throughout your graduate work. When you near completion, a representative from the gerontology program will check your plan of study to confirm that you have the necessary credits for either the gerontology minor or dual-title PhD.

What if you are interested in gerontology but don't have the time or student status to get a degree/certificate?

The Center on Aging and the Life Course sponsors several colloquia throughout the course of the academic year. Watch here for upcoming events that are open to the public. Also, follow us on Facebook or Instagram for quick notes and links to current events in aging and the life course.