The adulthood, aging, and gerontology program at the University of Connecticut has been training graduate students for over 50 years to meet the needs of adults, older adults, and their families. Research in this area is critical given that the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060. The aging of baby boomers indicates that, by 2035, older people are projected to outnumber children (under 18) for the first time in U.S. history. This population shift will increase the demand for researchers and other professionals in various careers with knowledge and expertise in adulthood, aging, and gerontology.
In HDFS, faculty and graduate student researchers aim to improve the health and wellbeing of adults, older adults, families, caregivers, and communities by engaging in collaborative, multi-disciplinary research and by mentoring and fostering the next generation of aging scholars. This area of specialization attracts students from a wide range of fields, including nursing, psychology, public health, audiology, and policy.
Current research includes projects that investigate:
- Health and aging- To understand the psychosocial impact of chronic illness and disability on the health and wellbeing of older adults and their families. Current research focuses on mechanisms and outcomes of resilience in older adults with cancer to inform interventions; cancer survivorship and chronic illness issues in older adults; Promoting healthy behaviors and quality of life among adults; family adjustment in the context of illness; Individualized approaches to promote successful aging and independent aging; and geriatric assessment.
- Caregiving- To examine the needs of caregivers and care-receivers to help identify services and/or programs to assist in providing quality care to family members. Current research focuses on cognitive decline in caregivers.
- Aging in Disadvantaged Populations- Current research focuses on cancer survivorship in disadvantaged populations, cross-cultural research on cancer survivorship, sociocultural factors influencing healthcare access, and social determinants of health and aging.
- Aging and Sexual/Gender Minorities- Current research includes, drag expression among sexual and gender minorities and how it interfaces with dragism, coping, resilience, and generativity; Exploration of the myths and meaning of drag and understanding drag expression as artistic; Chronicling shared episodic events among older drag queens (Gay Liberation, AIDS Epidemic, Same-Sex Marriage, Backlash, etc.); Shifts leading to modern perceptions of drag through the perceptions of older drag performers; Examining drag artistry and culture through the lens of aging; The interplay of both dragism and ageism in the society.
- Health and Aging Policy- To analyze the effects of federal, state, and local policies on the lives of adults, older adults, their families and caregivers
- Teaching and life long learning in Gerontology- To study the positive implications of lifelong learning across the generations and examine the benefits of intergenerational service learning on bi-directional ageism, positive aging strategies, and educational strategies to improve gerontological education. Current research and interests includes, innovative instruction in aging gerontology pedagogy; Experiential learning design in Gerontology
The adulthood, aging, and gerontology specialization in HDFS provides students with a comprehensive background in theory and research within the broader context of Human Development and Family Studies, highlighting the value of aging, resilience, and the positive aspects of development. HDFS students also have access to a number of other health and prevention related resources both in and outside of the department, including the UConn Center on Aging, directed by Dr. George Kuchel (HDFS affiliate) InCHIP Aging Research Interest Group, directed by HDFS professor Terry Berthelot, Center for Applied Research in Human Development, the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance & Rejection, and the Center for the Study of Culture, Health and Human Development. Students can also concurrently pursue a range of relevant certificate options, including Health Psychology and Disability Studies. The Graduate School website has a full list of all available Certificate Programs for Master's and Doctoral students.