Gerontology embraces a wide array of disciplines and scholarly perspectives that include the social sciences and humanities, biology, biochemistry, medicine, and the health sciences. Studies of aging and of older persons have long been situated within these individual disciplines and have generally assumed the theoretical foundations and dominant methodological approaches that characterize particular disciplines. The Graduate Center for Gerontology (GCG) takes a different approach.
The GCG at the University of Kentucky recognizes diverse approaches for exploring aging and older persons. Instead of limiting students to a particular discipline, we encourage development of an integrative way of thinking. The GCG embraces the continuum of cell to society and society to cell, an approach to the study of aging that seeks to improve the human condition on every level. Although students at the doctoral level cannot become experts in all areas of gerontology and all scales of inquiry, we expect our students to do the following:
- Critically assess any disciplinary approach to studies of aging and older persons;
- Innovatively integrate relevant concepts and theories from several disciplines to effectively plot important research directions; and
- Effectively employ the best possible research designs and methods in addressing scholarly questions in gerontology.
As an example a doctoral student in biochemistry may develop a dissertation, the methods of which are to study metabolic processes that may lead to brain pathologies in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). A doctoral student in the gerontology program may develop the same dissertation but would also understand how the pathologies influence cognition and behavior, how memory loss and behaviors influence life quality and caregiving networks, and how policies influence the access to and levels of care available for persons with AD.