Gerontologists are medical professionals who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting elderly people. This includes helping patients to stop becoming ill in the first place and also offering them help to cope with the social factors caused by illness. A gerontologist would need to have extensive knowledge of the illnesses that can affect elderly people, and also have first-class people skills in order to help people combat their conditions.

There is also an inclination toward helping people through rehabilitation, of utmost importance for elderly people due to the fact that an illness can have more of a lasting affect upon their body than with younger people. Dependent on which route you take, a gerontologist can expect to work in a general hospital, both in the outpatient and inpatient wards, or a specialist care centre. There is a real need to work closely with other professionals of medical specialties to ensure elderly patients receive the best treatment.

Work activities

Typical work activities a gerontologist would need to carry out include the following:

  • Help elderly patients to treat and manage conditions including dementia, depression and paranoia.
  • Work alongside other professionals of varying medical specialities.
  • Diagnose, treat and help patients to recover from illness.
  • Use rehabilitation to help patients prevent an illness from leading to a disability.
  • Not only provide medical support, but also be a confidante for patients in order to help them cope with the social aspects of an illness.
  • Conduct research into illnesses that can affect elderly people in order to help improve their way of life.
  • Provide a support network for patients and their family members.
  • Perform administrative tasks, such as updating patient medical records.
  • Be friendly and comforting in order to help people deal with life changing illnesses.
  • Work in environments such as nursing homes, hospitals and care centres.

Essential skills

  • Organised and professional manner.
  • Friendly personality and good people skills.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • A real desire to help elderly people combat their illnesses and to cope with the social aspects they may cause.
  • Understand the special type of treatment elderly people may require.
  • Extensive knowledge of and an aptitude for medicine.
  • Insight into how illnesses can be more problematic for elderly people.
  • Able to work as part of a medical team and as an individual.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Good IT skills.