Introduction to  Gerontology
CLASS Connections TITLE

Course Syllabus




Spring 2005




I.          TITLE:             30.306 Introduction to Gerontology


            FACULTY:                  Dr. Karen Devereaux Melillo          

Office Location:  O’Leary 312, South Campus

                                                Office Hours:  Tuesday, 12:00-1:00; Thursday, 12:30-2:30

(and by appointment as needed)

                                                Phone/Voice Mail:  978 934-4417

                        FAX: 978 934-3006, Located in the Office of the Dean,

Service Center, Weed 103, School of Health and Environment

Faculty Mailbox:  Weed Hall Room 222 (must access via

            Service Center in Weed 103)

Email: (please include detailed

subject line when sending messages [i.e., 30:306 Student Question]; otherwise, they will not be opened)

                                                Course Web Site:


II.         OVERVIEW:


            This course examines human aging from a multidisciplinary and

            developmental perspective.  The course will focus on the adult years

            of the life span.  The bio-social-psychological factors involved in

            adjustments to the aging process, to retirement, to family, to leisure,

            to aloneness, to death and bereavement are discussed together with

            such special concerns of older adults as widowhood, finances, religion,

            sexuality, and health problems.




Upon completion of the course, the student is expected to:

            A.  Conceptualize the life cycle, developmental approach to aging.

            B.  Express the situational context of aging in the United States.

            C.  Cite the variables that contribute to successful aging.

D.     Evaluate research findings in the field of gerontology.




            Measurable behaviors that students will be able to demonstrate upon completion of

            this course include:

A.                 Identify research findings in the field of gerontology that describe effective health promotion strategies with older adults.

B.                 Analyze existing social policies affecting older adults and propose and defend one alternative solution to address disparities which may exist.

C.                 Apply biological, psychological, and sociological theories of aging to describe community programs to address an identified need.

D.                 Reflect on the impact of aging, ethnicity, and living with a chronic disease by participating in a structured interview with a community-dwelling older adult and reporting the analysis of this interview in an oral presentation.

E.                  Compare and contrast the micro (individual) and macro (societal) perspectives impacting on successful aging.




Course Graphic:  The attached course graphic shows major elements and relationships between and among the various topics in this course.





A.        Time Allotment             3 Credit Hours

                        Class Hours                              3 Class Hours per week

                                                                        Tuesday 8:00-9:15 a.m.

                                                                        Thursday 8:00-9:15 a.m.

Meeting Place                           Weed Lecture Hall I

South Campus

                        Pre-requisite/co-requisites:        None; 30:306 course number implies

Junior-level course


B.                 Course Purpose:  This course fulfills a General Education course requirement at UML.  “The goals of general education at UMass Lowell are to help students prepare for a career, for responsible citizenship in region, country, and world, and for self-fulfillment throughout life” (UML Undergraduate Catalog, 2002-2004, p. 35).  This course should broaden students’ knowledge, develop their critical thinking and communication skills, . . . [and enable students to] learn to appreciate diversity, learn to confront ethical choices, learn to complete projects individually and with others, and to find information from many sources (UML, p. 35-36).


Furthermore, Introduction to Gerontology is offered as a School of Health and Environment course and, as such, contributes to the School’s mission and its relationship to the parent institution (UML).  “Critical to that mission is the need to enhance the quality of life through the maintenance and advancement of health promotion of the diverse population within the region” (UML, Department of Nursing, Self-Study Report Submitted to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, Spring 2001, p. 7).


For Nursing Majors, Introduction to Gerontology is a required Spring Semester, Sophomore Year course for Classes entering Year 2000 and beyond.  As a Professor in the Department of Nursing, I believe Introduction to Gerontology plays a fundamental role in helping students achieve their professional goals in nursing.  I also believe that gerontology is essential content for all undergraduate students who want to begin their own process of ‘aging well’ as well as understanding and effecting change about aging issues within the larger societal context.


C.                 Required Textbook: 


Hooyman, N. R. & Kiyak, H. A. (2005).  Social gerontology:  A


multidisciplinary perspective.  (7th Ed.).   Boston:  Allyn & Bacon.


            This textbook was selected because of its comprehensive presentation of the diversities of the aging experience and the older population from a multidisciplinary perspective.  It examines the social lives of older people by focusing on the historical, cultural, biological, physiological, psychological, and social contexts of aging.  The dynamic interactions between older people and their environments are stressed as a unifying theme.  A multiplicity of theoretical perspectives and empirical data are discussed (Hooyman & Kiyak, 2001, Preface).  This text is available in the South Campus Bookstore located in the basement of McGovern Building. 




            Lecture - Discussion

            Guest Lecturers

            Audio-visual aids

            Computer assisted instruction

            Web-based interactive educational programs





A.                 Attendance, Participation, and Weekly Questions:  Attendance and timeliness are expected for every class.  Late arrivals are sometimes unavoidable; however, consistent tardiness will be reflected in the calculation of the final attendance grade.  Each week, prior to the start of the 8:00 a.m. Thursday class (no late submissions will be accepted), students will turn in 2 typewritten (handwritten questions will not be accepted), multiple-choice questions, with answers (highlighted, asterisked, bolded), based on the textbook readings for that week.  Submitted questions may be used for subsequent exams.  They are to include the student’s name and the page number from the reading from which the question is derived.  Questions will not be graded as such, but will count toward the 5% of the grade allocated to class participation.  Due weekly, unless there is a scheduled examination, written class assignment, or oral presentation due, in which case questions are not required.                                   


Unannounced quizzes of no more than 10 questions may be offered as well to verify attendance and offer opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge of content readings.  This, too, would be a component of the 5% attendance/participation grade.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  5%


B.         Profile of Self at 80:  Prepare a 2-page profile (double-spaced) in which you speculate about what you think your family life will be like when you are 80.  For example:  Where will you live?  What kind of family will you have?  What kind of relationships will you have with family members, friends and neighbors?  How will you spend your day?  What is your health status?  Describe your health promotion practices, leisure activities, and financial status.  What kind of assistance will you receive if you are disabled and who will provide it?  What new programs and services might be available to you that are not available today?  What do you like or dislike about your life?                                              Due Thursday, February 10, 2005.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               5%


C.        Gerontology Fieldwork (option 1):  Students are to get acquainted with 2 agencies/services in your community that provide formal programs serving older adults and/or their families.  Write a very brief report (2-3 page maximum, typed, double-spaced) on the agencies you contacted in person (not telephone or internet/email contact), including who you met with, the overall goal(s) and objectives of the service/program/agency, what needs are addressed by the services provided, who are the services targeted to, how is information about the program shared with those in need, who pays and what are the costs, what are the perceived challenges to achieving the overall goal, how are the program goals evaluated?  Be prepared to discuss these in class – including how they relate to the text readings/gerontology coursework.  Due Tuesday, May 3 (for group A), Thursday, May 5 (for group B), and Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (for group C).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          15%




D.        Ethnic Older Adult Interview and Report (option 2):  Students will conduct an           

informal face-to-face (not telephone, email, letter-writing) interview with an older adult, over age 70, from an ethnic group different from her/himself.  Ethnicity or ethnic identify “refers to a self-conscious, past-oriented form of identity based on a notion of shared cultural and perhaps ancestral heritage, and current position in larger society” (Craven & Hirnle, 2000, p. 313).  The purpose of this face-to-face interview is to give you a better perspective on the impact of aging, ethnicity, past and present life situations, and, if applicable, living with a chronic disease, by participating in a structured interview with a community-dwelling older adult and reporting the analysis of this interview in an oral presentation.  While this course project is NOT research, we will review in class, and you will be responsible for maintaining, informed consent and confidentiality as spelled out in the UML Institutional Review Board web site at  An informed consent form will be provided to you and must be signed by the interviewee and turned in by you on the scheduled day of the oral report.                                                                               15%


On your written statement, do the following:                                                                 

a.       Give an overview of the individual’s background to include items such as where they grew up, ethnicity per self-report, educational level, special interest, immediate family composition, economic concerns, if any;

b.      Describe what they see as their most important accomplishments and challenges (if any);

c.       Determine what impact, if any, the older person feels being from an ethnic minority has had on her or his life course;

d.      Ascertain and describe the type of contact the older person has with other people (particularly young people, organizations, and social services);

e.       Understand how the older person uses these contacts to meet their needs;

f.        Learn about the older person’s perception of how they are treated as an older adult; and,

g.       Describe what living with a chronic disease means to this individual.

h.       Summarize what this experience of interviewing this older adult has meant to you in terms of career goals, responsible citizenship, and self-fulfillment, and relate to the text readings/gerontology coursework.


A narrative of no more than 2-3, typed, double-spaced pages, of the above (a. -h.) points to be covered, is to be submitted the day of presentation.  The summary should also include the situation under which interview was conducted, and general highlights regarding the uniqueness of the interaction based on the above discussion guide.  Reminder:  Academic dishonesty policy includes fabrication of results; the interview must be based on an actual interaction.  If necessary, the Professor will assist the student in identifying potential candidates to participate in this process.  Due Tuesday, May 3 (for group A), Thursday, May  (for group B), and Tuesday, May 10, 2005 (for group C).



Students will orally share their interview report or gerontology fieldwork experience with the class in a 5-7” presentation, divided in 3 different sessions as noted above.


D.                 Project-Based Learning/Group Oral Presentation:  Review of the research literature on an aging and/or gerontology issue/problem. Examples of gerontological and/or aging journals publishing peer-reviewed, primary, evidence-based research will be posted on the class web page.  Other appropriate resources will include professional organization and association websites, government web sites, agency or provider web sites (list to be distributed in class), as well as reference material that may be in print or media format.  Each individual member of the group must demonstrate his/her active participation in both the research review process, preparation of materials, and oral presentation components of this project-based learning.  Out-of-class meeting times, and/or online communication via word-document attachments to one another for editing and coordination, is fully expected.  Each group will comprise no more than 6 members and will be assigned to one of 7-8 groups for this purpose.  Suggested topics for consideration will be provided.  The dates of the presentations will be distributed in a class handout.  Each oral presentation is to be supported by audiovisuals (powerpoint computer-generated slides and/or overhead transparencies), with credit to citation sources as indicated. 


Every group MUST submit a typewritten outline of their presentation, along with a reference list in APA format, 2 weeks in advance of their assigned presentation date, so that detailed feedback can be provided (failure to meet this outline deadline will result in a 10-point deduction on the final presentation grade).   The outline and reference list must include the names and emails of all the participants for return feedback from the Professor. 


Material covered in class by the student groups will be used as testable content for the final examination.  Presentations will be 30” in length; opportunities for questions and answers must be carefully integrated throughout the discussion/presentation as failure to do so will result in point deductions.


Grp. #   Dates for Presentations:                       Times:              Outline and Reference List Due:


1          Tuesday, March 22, 2005                    8:40-9:10         March 8, 2005

2          Thursday, March 24, 2005                   8:40-9:10         March 10, 2005

3          Tuesday, March 29, 2005                    8:40-9:10         March 10, 2005 (early submission

                                                                              necessary due to semester break)

4          Thursday, March 31, 2005                   8:40-9:10         March 10, 2005 (as above)

5          Tuesday, April 5, 2005             8:40-9:10         March 22, 2005

6          Tuesday, April 12, 2005                       8:40-9:10         March 29, 2005

7          Thursday, April 19, 2005                      8:40-9:10         April 5, 2005

8          Tuesday, April 21, 2005                       8:40-9:10         April 7, 2005


a.       Select a question/topic (health promotion and aging/older adults) that interests you.  Health promotion can be broadly defined; the Department of Nursing at UML has adopted the following definition for your consideration:  “organized efforts that enhance, support or promote well-being or health of individuals, families, groups, communities, or societies” (Kulbok, Baldwin, Cox & Duffy, 1997, p. 17). Do a literature search to identify at least 2 research articles on that topic published in professional journals in the last 3 years [2002 to Present] (a list of acceptable professional, peer-reviewed journals will be available on course website).  You are not to use popular magazines (i.e., Better Homes and Gardens, Prevention, Redbook).  You may need to find and scan at least 3-5 or so journal articles related to your topic before you select the 2 you wish to review for your paper.  Do not use different articles by the same author (researcher). 


Then, study these 2 or more articles carefully (before you begin to

organize the presentation format).  What are the major points?  Describe the nature of the research and the samples.  Analyze each report for strengths and weaknesses.  What are the major findings?  Do you have any reservations about the conclusions (methodological, ideological, philosophical, contradictions with other research findings, apparent bias by the researcher, or other)?  Be able to summarize major points of interest about each article, and then present a review that integrates and synthesizes what you have learned from these 2 articles.  Review their value as research and ability to generalize, their overlap and differences, agreement or conflict in findings. 


Most importantly, describe How can you and/or others use or apply what you have concluded from these 2 reports, with special emphasis on how you and/or others can use or apply what you have concluded and discuss the implications for gerontology (aging, older adult population)?  Your presentation should analyze (critique) and synthesize the research articles, as well as integrate other resources utilized in preparing for the presentation.  You are encouraged to include your own brief evaluation of the ideas you are reviewing. 


A suggested format for evaluating quantitative research articles follows:

·                    Theoretical/Conceptual Framework

·                    Protection of Human Subjects

·                    The Problem

·                    Research Questions/Hypotheses

·                    Review of the Literature

·                    Research Design

·                    Sampling

·                    Data Collection

·                    Quantitative Analysis

·                    Conclusions and Recommendations


For evaluating qualitative research articles, consider the following:

·                    Statement of the Problem

·                    Purpose

·                    Method

·                    Sampling

·                    Data Collection

·                    Data Analysis

·                    Conclusions, Implications, and Recommendations



General Guidelines for Project-Based Learning/Group Presentation:

·                    Present in your own words.  Do not plagiarize.  If you closely paraphrase, you will run the risk of bordering on plagiarism.  I am aware that your presentation is largely based upon ideas that you get from authors; this presentation project is not to be merely an essay about your personal opinions.  However, if you paraphrase or condense copyrighted material in such a way that the similarity not only of wording but also of sequence of thought is perfectly obvious, you must properly cite a reference to credit the author (and include the citation in your reference list), whether done orally or in writing (overheads, for example). 


·                    Secondly, while the topic chosen may complement an area of interest that has been developed in a concurrent or previous course, it should not be the same project.  It is fully expected that this project is an original work developed exclusively for this course, 30:306 Introduction to Gerontology.  Minor adaptations of a previously submitted project/slide presentation for another course are not acceptable and credit will not be given for this same or very similar paper/project if previously or concurrently submitted to another course. 


·                    Details like grammar, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation or neatness, do contribute to the quality of any presentation and should be considered in addition to your treatment of the topic or issue selected.  Special attention should be given to the organization of material in your oral presentation and supplemental materials.  Overheads and/or Powerpoint slides must be typed, double spaced, using font sizes provided in the templates [do not attempt to reduce font size to fit more material on a slide]. 


·                    Please use the reference style of The American Psychological Association (  The Gerontologist (available on 4th floor O’Leary Library or at also explains the use of APA inside the back cover of a recent issue.  Pay attention to how reference citations (not footnote numbers) are used.  The full reference for the APA format is:


American Psychological Association (2001).  Publication manual


of the American Psychological Association.  5th Edition. 


Washington, DC:  Author.


·                    The APA format is the requirement for all School of Health and Environment course work.  This is also a required text for the 33:301 Research in Healthcare course.  Penalties will be assessed if this format is not followed. 


·                    A penalty of 5 points per day will be assessed late papers.  All papers must be delivered directly to the Professor (no submissions via email attachment) on the due date published in this syllabus. 


Communication skills are important not only in this class, but also in your future careers.  If you feel that you might benefit from outside help with writing skills or use of various computer-generated Powerpoint slide presentation formats, assistance may be obtained at the Centers for Learning, O’Leary Library, 3rd floor.  Contact them early in the preparation and organization process in order to enhance your skills and improve the final product.


E.                  Unit Exam #1         (60 multiple-choice questions), Thursday, March 3, 2005                                                                                                             15%


F.                  Unit Exam #2         (60 multiple-choice questions), Tuesday, April 7, 2005,                                                                                                                15%


Make-Up Exams - Please Note:  In the event of personal illness or an extreme family or personal emergency in which a student is unable to be in attendance for a scheduled exam, it is expected that the student will notify the faculty member by voice mail prior to the start time of the exam.  Opportunities for makeup exams will be solely at the discretion of the faculty member and, if granted, will consist of one comprehensive exam to be offered (depending on student’s final exam schedule) immediately after the two-hour Registrar’s-scheduled Final Exam for the class.


G.                 Final Examination (100 multiple-choice questions covering content from entire semester), per Registrar scheduling.                                                                                                                                                        25%


Criteria for Evaluation:                                                                          100%


Note:  Penalties will be imposed on late assignments; a 5-point deduction per day will be taken beginning on the 1st late day (due date) and every day thereafter (including weekends) until submitted.

Grading Scale:

4.0       =          A         =          100-95

3.5       =          AB       =          94-89

3.0       =          B          =          88-83

2.5       =          BC       =          82-77

2.0       =          C         =          76-71

1.5       =          CD       =          70-65

1.0       =          D         =          64-59

0.0       =          F          =          58-00



IX.       CONTENT OUTLINE (Detailed 3-Page Topical Outline with Weekly Required and Recommended Reading Assignments Accompanies this Syllabus):




Regarding Dishonesty and Cheating:

All students are advised that there are University policies regarding dishonesty and cheating, which may be found in the University of Massachusetts Lowell Undergraduate Catalogue, 2002-2004 (p. 45-47).  You are responsible to familiarize yourself with these policies.  If necessary, contact your Advisor or Professor for clarification of these policies.


Services for Learning and Physically Disabled Students

“The University and its programs and activities are becoming increasingly accessible to academically qualified students who are physically and learning-disabled…For further information contact the Office of Disability Services, Southwick Hall, North Campus” [and office available on 2nd floor, O’Leary Library] to learn more about accommodations available to disabled students (UML Catalogue, p. 23)


Please note that this syllabus is only a tentative guide; deviations may be necessary.


Welcome to what I hope will be a very important and enjoyable course for you in your General Education curriculum!



30:306 Introduction to Gerontology

Dr. Karen Devereaux Melillo


Spring 2005

The following is a brief list of web sites on aging and related topics and related topics (not an exhaustive list and many other excellent sites may be accessed; please check with me before deciding, however).  These may provide helpful background for your research and related reviews for the project-based group presentation:



                 Administration on Aging



                 Alzheimer's Association



                 American Association of Retired Persons



                 American Dietetic Association



                 California Department of Aging



                 Health Care Financing Administration






                 National Institute on Aging



                 Social Security



                 US Department of Health and Human Services



                 UCLA GeroNet



                 UCLA Healthcare



                 UCLA Memory and Aging Research Center





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