WILSON, N.C. – Gerontology. Ask most people to define it, and they would probably describe it simply as the study of aging or the study of the elderly. To Amanda May, Kathy Greenwood, and Angela Hunter, it’s a great program of study and a field that will experience increasing demand as our population ages.

The trio visited campus to participate in a panel discussion at the fifth annual Caregiver Education Conference on March 18. They took time out of the conference to discuss their experiences with Barton’s gerontology program and its impact on their work in the field.

Amanda May, class of 2007, is the Alzheimer’s program coordinator for the Morningview Assisted Living Facility in Greensboro. In addition to her gerontology major, she also received a minor in psychology as well as a minor in religion and philosophy.

“It centers everything that I do,” said May, discussing the impact of the courses on her work. The multi-disciplinary nature of the program prepared May for ongoing challenges she faces.

“I work with those who are aging, who have dementia; that takes care of my psychology degree. My religion and philosophy plays a role because of the death and dying issues that I deal with on occasion, but gerontology encompasses all of that.”

Likewise, Kathy Greenwood benefited from the multiple disciplines that she learned in the gerontology program, classes such as social work, psychology, and business.

Greenwood, in-home support coordinator for the Johnston County Council on Aging and 2007 Barton graduate, said she initially did not understand why she had to take the multiple disciplines, “but then once I got into the field, everything plays a part with what I’m doing.”

In addition, she still refers to her course materials on a regular basis.

“Probably every week I pull one of my books out and my class notes, too.”

Angela Hunter, regional ombudsman for Wilson County for the Upper Coastal Plain Area Agency on Aging and 2006 graduate, agreed: “Everything makes sense now.”

“It might seem minor when you’re in college, but when you graduate you actually get the big picture,” said Hunter.

Hunter, Greenwood, and May also found Barton’s small environment to be beneficial to their college experience as a whole.

“I think just by being a small college you get to know people. Your fellow students and your teachers, they know you by name,” said Hunter.

Greenwood, mother of three college graduates, was exposed to the large campus environments at her children’s schools but found a small environment more appealing:

“I’ve been exposed to all three large campuses. That’s why I particularly wanted to come to a small campus, to where I felt like I didn’t go to a classroom where there were 150 students. I wanted to be able to walk up to a teacher and my teacher say, ‘Oh, yes, Kathy? Do you have a problem?’ Or my teacher to be able to know exactly who I am, and to have a relationship with my teachers. And that’s what was the most important thing to me with Barton College.”

Recalling her time at Barton, Greenwood said, “I did not have one single teacher that was not willing to work with me one on one in any of my classes I took here; and none of my children that went to any of the large campuses, they never had a relationship like that with their college experience.”

“I agree with both of them. I enjoyed the small atmosphere. I enjoyed knowing my professors one on one,” said May.

However, for May rediscovery was the most important aspect of Barton.

“The biggest thing for me in my years total here was the advancement of rediscovering yourself. I started out four years in the nursing program, had a year left to go, was going to be a nurse, and just decided I changed my mind; but that was because there were so many other opportunities on campus. I did take classes – business classes. I took science classes. I took classes in gerontology. I was able to kind of revisit all those different areas before I made my final decision before graduation for me. Last minute I picked up another minor and picked up a new major in gerontology and finished it all in a year,” recounted May.

Barton gave her “that opportunity to kind of find myself, my niche in the world.”

For Hunter, childhood interaction with the elderly gave her an appreciation for them.

“I grew up around a lot of elderly people. My mama was a nurse, and I would get off the bus to where she worked, and she worked with a lot of elderly people. I just kind of took to them, and I enjoyed it back then, and I still do. And actually I get along better with them because they appreciate you.”

She has found that even a simple visit can mean a lot to an older person.

“When I go do my visits with my residents, they’re glad to see me coming. They appreciate what you have to offer, and they always feel that it’s good to know that people do care about them and are there for them because a lot of times if they don’t have families, when we go in to visit, that’s the only visit they get. So they always want you to come in and sit down.”

Gerontology is all about people. Whether it is through caring for them directly or assisting those who do, gerontology offers you a way to make a difference in others’ lives.

To learn more, contact Dr. Steven Fulks, dean of the School of Behavioral Sciences, at 252.399.6570 or email: sfulks@barton.edu.

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Questions? Please contact Ken Dozier, web services manager at Barton College, at 252.399.6596 or email: kdozier@barton.edu.

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