Valentine M. Villa, Ph.D.
Welcome to the Applied Gerontology Institute (AGI). The AGI was developed in response to demands from the community and from various professions working with the older adult population e.g., social work, nursing, health sciences, for curriculum and applied research that focuses on aging. The demographics of aging is increasingly drawing attention within these fields due to the dramatic growth of the older adult population in the United States, especially among the oldest (over 85) age segment. Average life expectancy has surpassed 75 years, and many older adults are a part of four and even five generational families. The aging of the population affects all generations, i.e., the rise in kinship care and the pressing needs of adults in mid-life who are caring both for older family members as well as children is increasing rapidly.
As the population is aging it is also becoming more diverse, with the fastest growth occurring among the Asian and Latino populations.
The growth in number and proportion of older adults age 65 and older living in Los Angeles is unprecedented in this region. Paralleling the changing U.S. demographics, this segment of the population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. With increased life expectancy and aging baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) reaching age 65 starting in 2011, many under-represented groups residing in Los Angeles County today will become the majority within the next 20-25 years.
In order for this growing segment of the U.S. elderly population to achieve health and economic security in old age, social workers, nurses, and others working with older adults must be cognizant of the issues facing the population and areas for intervention that will improve the level and type of health care and related social services they need to live healthy productive lives. The certificate in applied gerontology provides students with a multidisciplinary curriculum aimed at providing an understanding of the biological, sociological, physiological, cultural, and political aspects of aging. Through our classroom and internship experiences we provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work with and on behalf of an aging and increasingly diverse older adult population and their families. Specifically, our courses provide students with myriad perspectives with which to analyze, formulate, and implement community direct practice programs, social policies, as well as administrative practices that meet the needs of diverse older adults and their families.
In addition to our work in the area of education, the Applied Gerontology Institute (AGI) in three short years has brought in two foundation grants and one federal grant. These grants have provided important opportunities for students to learn about the research process, and AGI has been recognized both nationally and locally for its work in the area of Latino health. We are prepared to continue this work and increase our efforts by expanding the master’s certificate program in gerontology, writing and submitting grants that will further the scholarship of the AGI, and most importantly provide our students with solid experience in conducting scientific research that furthers our mission to reduce health, social, and economic disparities among the older adult population and their families.