USM Online

Online Certificate Program in Gerontology

Interdisciplinary Faculty


General Overview:

Over the next 20 years, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will double. Additionally, the number of adults over 85 who need acute, primary, and long-term care will increase five-fold. This demographic shift will significantly increase the demand for professionals with the skills and knowledge to care for the health, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of older adults.

The Certificate Program in Gerontology is designed to help professionals currently working with older adults, as well as individuals preparing for health and human services professions, develop their capacity to serve this clinically complex population.  The program is based on the multidisciplinary competencies recommended by the Partnership for Health in Aging.

Students may complete the five courses in the program in one year by taking one course in each 7-week session or they may proceed at their own pace.

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Career Options:

We understand that it is important for students to know what possible career opportunities and acquired skills are attained as a result of completing a degree in a particular program. The Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) provides some great information to consider as you choose the degree path that makes the most sense for you, your career, and your educational goals.

AGHE Resources:

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7-Week Online Format:

The traditional 15-week fall and spring semesters are divided into two 7-week sessions, allowing students the convenience of taking classes online and the opportunity to focus on one course at a time. This format allows students to make steady progress each semester.  If life interrupts a session, the next session is right around the corner. In addition, USM offers two 7-week sessions each summer. Completion is a step closer every seven weeks.

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Enrollment Information:

If you are interested in completing this online Gerontology certificate, simply complete the Enrollment Form or contact our enrollment advisor Joe Pagano to  assist you through the enrollment process.

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Certificate Requirements:

15 undergraduate credits are required for this certificate. These courses may be taken in any sequence.

Required Courses (6 credits)- Courses are offered every year.

  • CON 313 Health in Later Years
    This course is designed for students from diverse fields who are interested in health and aging. The population of older adults in the United States is growing at a rate that is unprecedented in American history and no matter what your career path this growth will impact you. Knowledge about illness, medications, physical activity, nutrition, sexuality, health care delivery, and death and dying will be presented. Students will obtain essential information needed to provide effective care for aging clients, patients, loved ones, and themselves. Community experiences are required.  3 credits.

  • HRD 310 Aging and the Search for Meaning
    This course explores psychosocial and spiritual aspects of successful human aging.  Multidisciplinary perspectives on aging will be examined including historical, psychological, sociological, cultural and religious.  Learners will discuss key issues related to aging and the search for meaning through the lens of various genres (e.g., research, theory, fiction) as well as their own personal experiences.  Prerequisites:  College Writing and any SOC or PSY course. 3 credits.

Elective Courses (choose 3 of the following)- These courses may vary each year.  

  • CON 318 Adult Development and Aging
    This is an advanced course in developmental psychology focusing on the adult portion of the lifespan. The course will provide an overview of the major theories, issues, and research in the scientific study of adulthood. The interplay of biological and cognitive factors, interpersonal relationships, social structure, and cultural values in shaping the individual's development will be examined.  Prerequisites: College writing and any PSY or SOC course. 3 credits.

  • CON 390 Evaluation and Assessment of Older Adults
    This course is designed for students who are interested in developing and refining skills in the evaluation and health assessment of older adults. The populations of the world and the United States are aging. The number of older adults in the United States will almost double by 2030. With the unprecedented increase in the number of older adults there is a growing need to understand their unique social and health care needs.  Students will gain insight into the evaluation and health assessment process needed to promote health and well-being in older adults.  Prerequisites:  College Writing and any SOC or PSY course.  3 credits.

  • HRD 312 The Spiritual Challenges and Opportunities of Aging
    This course explores the dynamic role spirituality plays in navigating the aging process. Within a holistic context spirituality provides a frame of reference for understanding both who we are and how we fit into the world around us.  Learners will develop a basic frame of reference for the nature of spiritual experience, including theory of adult spiritual development. But given the subjective nature of spirituality, it will be important for learners to develop tools for assessing the role spirituality plays in providing meaning for people as they age as individuals. Learners will begin this process by examining their own spiritual journey from psychosocial, cultural and religious perspectives. They will then use a parallel process to interview an older individual and assess the role spirituality plays in their aging process. Prerequisite:   HRD 312 students will be expected to have taken one college-level writing course and one sociology or psychology course.  3 credits.

  • STH 300 Partnering with Family Caregivers
    Connecting with family caregivers is crucial for the delivery of a successful care plan. This course explores how providers can address the psychosocial challenges of caring for an aging family member. Family caregivers are responsible for providing the majority of long term care for people who are living with chronic illness and progressive dementia. We will examine the challenges that impact caregiving including physical, emotional and spiritual strain, and how health care providers and social service professionals can provide information, resources and support that will lead to sustainable outcomes for both the caregiver and the care recipient. It is recommended that the students have junior/senior status, have a college writing course and at least one course in either psychology or sociology. 3 credits.

  • STH 315 Rehabilitation Services for Older Adults
    This course will discuss rehabilitation services for older adults within the present health care system including types of services, cost and reimbursement for services and responsibilities of different rehabilitation professionals.  The course will look at the role of the rehabilitation professional in the delivery of services in a variety of medical and community settings typical for older adults.  The course will review common conditions for older adults including cardiac, pulmonary, neuromuscular, and orthopedic conditions and provide evidence-based examples of interventions commonly utilized in the rehabilitation profession.  Finally, the role of rehabilitation in health promotion, prevention, and well-being will be explored.  Prerequisites: College writing and any PSY or SOC course.  3 credits.

  • SWO 375 Gender and Aging
    A theoretical and practical course that informs students about aging issues affecting women and men differentially. Students will analyze the manifestations of aging and apply concepts drawn from the behavioral and social sciences. Service learning experience may be available. Prerequisite: junior standing or permission of instructor. 3 credits.

The program recommends that students have junior/senior status or some college experience if they are experienced professionals. The individual courses require that all students have taken a college level writing course and at least one course in either psychology or sociology. Students should be prepared for a rigorous academic experience as all courses are upper level and the 7-week format is intensive.

Students may complete the entire certificate or select individual courses.
To learn more about the requirements, please view the official 2014-2015 Catalog.

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Scheduled Courses:

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Certificate Completion:

In order to receive your certificate, please complete the Application for Completion of the Online Certificate Program in Gerontology when you have fulfilled the requirements.

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Student Profile: Joleen Mitaly

Joleen MitalyAs a life enrichment assistant at The Cedars Retirement Community in Portland, Joleen Mitaly designs and administers individualized recreational therapy activities for residents. 

Joleen settled on her career in gerontology through regular discussions with her academic USM advisor, Nancy Richeson. After taking a year of classes at Keene State College, then a year of core courses at USM, she knew she needed to decide on a path. 

Knowing her love of the sciences and love of working with people, the advisor suggested the gerontology certificate program to help complete a bachelor's in health science. Joleen doubled up on classroom courses as well as online courses to achieve her goal of graduating in four years. The choice of the online gerontology program turned out to be the right one. It prepared her for a job that she thoroughly enjoys.

While completing her degree, Joleen was also working full time so she would come home at 10 p.m., turn on the computer and start studying. Until then, she had never taken online courses and these were accelerated – covering the normal 14 weeks of material in seven weeks.  How did it go?

No problem, according to Joleen. USM uses the Blackboard online system, which all students are linked into because it is used to support classroom instruction as well. A big plus, in her mind, is that she found the online instructors to be thoughtful and flexible: “There are deadlines every week, but they know you are busy and they work with you.”

There is more responsibility on the student’s part, she notes. “Instead of going to class, you have to make time on your own.” Her main piece of advice: “Stay on top of it. Every week it doesn’t take that much time, but if you let it go for three weeks, it’s huge.”

Joleen Mitaly at GraduationOne advantage online instruction has over the more conventional format is that, typically, “they get you involved in the world . . . I visited a nursing home and interviewed an OT (occupational therapist) as part of the coursework, and did a write-up of my experiences.”

While face-to-face meetings are not part of the design, and email is the main channel of communication, instructors are available if you need to see them. The courses also have discussion groups and bulletin-board postings. “Because the teachers understand that you’re doing more than just school, they keep the focus on the important aspects and leave out the busywork.”She concludes: “Some people find the idea (of online education) intimidating, but I have found that, once you learn how to navigate the Blackboard site, the courses are easy to follow.”

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PCE Student Services:

Need help? Have Questions? We understand the challenges of finishing your degree and we’re here to help you every step of the way.

Contact PCE (Professional and Continuing Education) Student Services at 207-780-5900, or email us at, or visit us in person.

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