Grooming Young Gerontology Professionals
Human population ageing is going to cost us dearly, but until the problem looms large enough to be keenly felt, most people seem to spare little thoughts to it. According to the Hong Kong Population Projections 2015 – 2064, the percentage of people aged 65 or above will reach 28% by 2034, with the figure shooting up to 33% by 2064. The statistics speak louder than words of the urgency for more gerontology professionals. The Bachelor of Science in Gerontology programme, run by the Nethersole School of Nursing of the Faculty of Medicine, CUHK, is precisely designed to educate young people as gerontology professionals every age-friendly city needs.
The first UGC-funded articulated gerontology programme, CUHK’s BSc in Gerontology is the programme of choice for associate degree or higher diploma graduates majoring in health sciences, social sciences, counselling, Chinese medicine, human and life sciences, etc. Upon graduation, students should be ready to take on aged care service planning, interdisciplinary coordination, planning and implementing care management, empowerment programmes, telecare and transitional care in a wide variety of elderly health and social care settings. Some may even go into service administration, evaluation and reengineering. The opportunities offered by gerontology programme are as diverse as they are promising.
Commenting on the employability of graduates, Prof. Chair Sek-ying, Director of the School, said, ‘The excellent performance of our graduates is widely appreciated. The majority of the graduates joined the aged care field as project officers, project coordinators, and elderly service coordinators. Some were employed by academic institutions to carry out and coordinate community-based research projects. The employers are impressed by their ability to analyze critically current health and social care policies, and their thorough understanding of the needs of older persons in the local as well as global contexts. Three of our graduates received multiple outstanding employee awards from non-governmental organizations and social enterprises.’
Sarah Ho, a Year 3 student enrolled in the programme, had set her eyes on a career in aged care services early on. Before joining the programme, Sarah had done a considerable amount of voluntary work in aged care, and would like to grow her charitable work into a full-fledged career. She chose CUHK’s programme because she believed it would ‘equip students with a full scope of knowledge and skills in planning, delivery and coordinating aged care services.’
To her delight, what the programme offers has exceeded her expectation. She is especially grateful for the gerontological practicum, which provides her with ample opportunities to apply theories in different settings such as district elderly community centres, day care centres and residential care homes.
Gerontological practicum aside, Sarah finds unforgettable the exchange programme to Tainan where she got the chance to ‘job shadow’ at a local residential care home. To give the residents more autonomy over their lives, the staff would come up with creative ideas, such as teaching the residents how to decorate their own urine drainage bags. This experience brings home the fact that every small act of caring, touched up by imagination, can make a big difference. ‘I believe that taking a step to get out of the comfort zone and being innovative is an important aspect of my gerontology education,’ Sarah said.
The acquisition of soft skills and all-round development is a key feature of CUHK’s gerontology programme. On top of practical knowledge and skills, students are expected to hone their communication, interpersonal, leadership, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The curriculum is broad enough to holistically prepare students for a fast-changing and diverse world.
With an annual intake of about 30 students, the programme is well-positioned to provide individual supervision to its students. A good example is the ‘academic advisory system’ that matches each new student with an advisor or mentor. Year 2 students and graduates are invited to share their experience with Year 1 students to help them better adapt to campus life.
Gerontology education is more than passing on mere knowhow and hard facts. Sarah and her classmates can stand by the veracity of this statement: not only have they got a good grasp of professional expertise and competencies in aged care, they have also gained deeper insights into the meanings of life through the comprehensive education and humble service.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018