The world is aging. Evidence of "aging revolution" is to be found in the in growing number of elders in the general population. This situation is reflected in Israel as well: according to data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, between 1996-2000 the number of Israeli residents aged 65+ increased by 32%; 75+ by 50%; and 75+ by 25%. Between 1960 and 2000, the number of elders in Israel aged 65+ grew from 100,000 to 600,000, and constitutes 11% of the total population today. Demographic forecasts predict that by 2010 the total number of elders aged 65+ in Israel will reach 722.500.
In Israeli elder population today, 42% are 75+ and 22% are 80+, indicating that the country has one of the largest old-old populations in the world. This group is ethnically heterogenic. By way of example, Israel has an old-old immigrant population that is three times larger proportionally than its old-old Arab population.
Today, some 90,000 frail elders in the community receive services according to the provision of the Community Long-Term Care Insurance Law implemented by the National Insurance Institute. Some 16,000 totally dependent elders are institutionalized under the supervision of the Health Ministry. Approximately 12.000 frail elders live in nursing homes under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Welfare while 3.000 beds are available for rehabilitative-geriatric and acute geriatric care throughout the country. Over 40% of the patients hospitalized in internal departments are elders, and elders consume 40% of total medication disbursed in the public health system. The inert-Ministerial Committee for the Reorganization of Health services for elders estimated in 2000 that the national expenditure for the aged was NIS10 billion.
Besides special resources and services, the significant growth in the aged population demands skilled human resources that will provide welfare and health services. Specifically, the demand is for welfare and health services in the community, home services, and the improvement of existing services.
The mass immigration from the former USSR that began in the last decade of the twentieth century is characterized by relatively old age in comparison the general population, contributing to the overall growth of the proportion of elders in Israel. Accordingly, more services for this population are needed.
This reality presents a large-scale national challenge in terms of creating teaching and research programs as well as formatting new solutions for elders and their families, side by side with providing solutions for the health systems. Additionally, the professional and administrative levels must be expanded with researchers, in the multi-disciplinary and inter disciplinary areas of the health and welfare services for elders, beyond what is provided by the medical geriatric system at present.
Social gerontology is an inter disciplinary science based on social, welfare and health studies, conceived as a response to research needs, inter-disciplinary knowledge, and the advance of leadership in aging. It differs from geriatrics, which focuses on the medical aspects of aging.
Today, considerable effort is invested in conveying basic knowledge in social gerontology. However, many professionals in the health and welfare services lack suitable education in this field. Hence, there is a need for a program that will broaden education in social gerontology studies among professionals, while developing new research tools in this area. Despite dramatic demographic changes and new needs, the number of researchers in all branches of social gerontology, has barely increase over the last 20 years.
The Department of Gerontology has responded to important aspects of these needs by developing interdisciplinary and intra-professional knowledge and research, and by training professionals in social, welfare and health studies of aging populations.
- The need for the development of research and training in social gerontology
- Research activity and the development of knowledge in the Gerontology Department are conducted in various domains:
- Special services for elders. Research subjects include program and service assessment, studying patterns of service use, studying of needs for specific services, and assessing quality of care in various services.
- Study of the significance of the intergenerational aging family, concern with issues of solidarity and conflict in the family, caretakers, and family abuse.
- Study of the quality of life of elders on the individual level, family level, and their environment. This includes research on the meaning of life and of quality of life in old age, coping with loss of elders and family members, and environmental and social reactions.
- Interdisciplinary research revealing the links between general and specific services, and between the various professionals that provide services to the elders. This includes research on continuity in care giving, integration and coordination of services, inter-and multi-professional work, and training needs.
- Study of development and management of services, social policy, and various perceptions of operating service systems. This includes research on privatization of services, the balance between private and public services, prevention vs. rehabilitation and improvement, priorities in allocating of resources, and development of communal services vs. institutional services.
All research in the department is conducted in coordination with the Center for Research and Study of Aging.
The Goals of the Program
Broadly, the goal of the program is to train researchers and lecturers in social gerontology, and to train experts for senior positions in welfare and health services for elders. The specific objectives are as follows:
- To train academic personnel for research in and teaching social gerontology.
- To develop the body of knowledge in the field of social gerontology.
- To provide the graduate with knowledge in his/her chosen domain of social gerontology and geriatrics, based on an integrative inter disciplinary approach.
- To elevate the graduate's awareness to the large range of needs of different various elder populations and their families, and to develop sensitivity to these needs.
- To develop the student's skills and qualifications in understanding the social and psychological processes of aging, the physiological and functional processes, economic and environmental processes, and in assessing the social policy of aging.
- To expose students to welfare and health services that provides solutions using changing technologies in changing environments.
- To train professional and qualified personnel for intervention, management and senior leadership in welfare and health services for elders.
Master's Program Gerontology (aging studies)
The department accepts B.A. graduates in behavior and social sciences, medicine, biology, social work, life sciences and architecture. The department is designed to train researchers and lecturers as well as to enrich the knowledge of professionals or those preparing to work in welfare and health service for elders who want to gain familiarity with the innovations and research developments in the field.
Researchers, managers, practitioners and instructors in the gerontology field Gerontology is a relatively new discipline that has developed as a result of demographic changes in the Western world leading to the aging of the population. To work in this field means to the pioneer in the development of health, management and welfare systems for elders and their families. The work aims to advance and improve the quality of life of the aged while focusing on their special needs. The growing awareness of the importance of developing distinctive solutions for elders in the Western world parallels the rapid pace of the development of services and understanding of the issues involved in the development of knowledge and leadership.
These issues include:
- Distinctive solutions: The study of new and innovative topics to develop knowledge and unique solutions for various aging populations.
- Quality of care: Providing resources and knowledge for assessing care giving and intervention for the improvement of care programs.
- Quality of service: Studying methods and processes to improve services.
- Quality of life: Acquiring basic knowledge that will facilitate raising the quality of life of the aged in society.
- Agents' change- Influencing policy makers and improving management systems in services provided for elders.
- Basic studies that aim to understand aging process.
- Policy and law including structure and management of welfare and health services.
- Research studies, focusing on Gerontological research.
- Social and psychological aspects of aging - getting to know central theories, processes of "successful aging", and intergenerational relationships in the aging family.
- Physiological aspects of aging - getting to know medical processes, biology and physiology in aging, health and sickness, rehabilitation, and psycho geriatrics.
- Management and organizational aspects of aging - development of qualifications for planning and managing services for the elders.
- General studies - courses (Courses that are concerned with unique topics like ethics and norms, system marketing, legal issues, physical environment, sleep and sleep disorders, development of skills for work with the elders.
- The program for master degree in Gerontology is based on two objectives:
- To train reserve for the academic staff for teaching and research of Gerontology.
- To train qualified skilled personnel for intervention, management and senior leadership of the welfare and health services for the elders.
- The Program is Aiming to Develop and Deepen:
- Bodies of knowledge in Gerontology while using inter-disciplinary and inter professional approaches.
- Qualifications and skills for understanding physiological, sociological, psychological, economical, political, and environmental processes of aging.
- Acquaintance with health and welfare service systems for the aged, and assessment of social policy of aging.