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New ASU degrees in aging

March 14, 2008

While the population of the United States is projected to grow by 30 percent over the next two decades, the population of people over age 65 is expected to grow by 100 percent.

New Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree programs in Aging and Lifespan Development, offered by Arizona State University's College of Human Services, will prepare professionals in many fields to respond to the needs of America's aging population.

"From financial planners to occupational and speech therapists, people in a wide range of professions are working with clients in their 50's through their 80's and beyond," says Kathleen Waldron, interim director of the School of Aging and Lifespan Development. "Our new degree programs meet a growing demand for knowledge of issues associated with aging."

The bachelor's degree program focuses on preparing individuals whose goal is to work directly in the field of aging, in settings including care facilities and government agencies. Course titles include Social Policy Issues in Midlife and Beyond, Communication and Aging, and Health Issues and Older Adults.

Students pursuing the bachelor's degree participate in three field placements with community organizations. They also complete a capstone project in the form of an internship or applied research project. "Working directly with organizations serving older adults will give our students the preparation and experience they need to enter the job market when they graduate," Waldron says.

The master's degree program is geared toward professionals in a range of fields looking to increase their understanding of aging issues. Core courses comprise half of the 36-credit master's curriculum. For the other half, students choose elective coursework focusing on specific topics such as mental health, care-giving issues, physical activity and aging, and spirituality and the helping professions.

The master's program culminates in an applied project that enables students to apply research-based knowledge in a real-world setting.

"Metropolitan Phoenix has a large population of older adults in various stages of later life, from those who are extremely active in the community to those who require intensive care-giving," says John Hepburn, dean of the ASU College of Human Services, home to the School of Aging and Lifespan Development. "This situation creates both the opportunity and the responsibility for ASU to help create a workforce that can meet the needs of this important segment of the Valley's population."

"Serving older Americans, both locally and nationally, is going to be at the forefront of everything we do," says Christie Munson, volunteer and development manager for the Beatitudes Campus Retirement Community in Phoenix and a 2002 College of Human Services graduate. "These new degree programs will give students an excellent foundation to create a lifetime career in the diverse aging services sector. It's a career path I find rewarding, both personally and professionally."

Adds Emily Nock, education coordinator for the Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, "There is a tremendous need for an academic program that equips students to serve, grow, and learn about the aging process, and in turn to help older adults in our communities. ASU's Aging and Lifespan Development programs provide a focused curriculum that addresses this need."

Students from all ASU campuses are eligible to take Aging and Lifespan Development classes. Also offered are a minor in Aging and Lifespan Development for undergraduate students, and a graduate certificate in Gerontology for individuals with a bachelor's degree. For details about School of Aging and Lifespan Development offerings, visit

The College of Human Services is located on ASU's West campus in northwest Phoenix. Human Services faculty work to stimulate positive change in varied social settings in Arizona and around the world. The College focuses on expanding research and influence in the areas of criminal justice and violence prevention, mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, lifelong learning, aging and lifespan development, community development, quality-of-life issues, and advocacy and leadership effectiveness. More information is available at