Advocate for the Aging with a Master's in Gerontology from UNC Greensboro

Kirstin NorrisWhen Kirstin Norris interned at an assisted living facility for her undergraduate degree, it reshaped her career choice in physical therapy. She realized she wanted to work with the aging population.

With four living grandparents, Norris understands the importance of preparing for life’s later stages. She realized it’s a concern for many others as well. She completed her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science, then enrolled in the online Master of Science in Gerontology at UNC Greensboro.

Mapping Out Long-Term Goals

Norris hopes to start an adult day center eventually, an idea she created during her graduate program.

“My ultimate goal is so that caretakers don’t have to quit their jobs because long-term care is so expensive,” she says. “You know that your loved ones are being taken care of, and yet you can still work and do the things that you need to do for yourself.” 

Talking to people who use similar resources helped Norris realize the value in this type of care. One woman told her how helpful it is to be able to drop off her father at a facility so she can go to the grocery store, a doctor’s appointment, or other things she needs to do for herself.

 “It not only gives you time, but it also gives your loved one time to socialize and do whatever they would like to do and also get them out of the house,” Norris says. 

Getting Real Experience

Because Norris already had an idea of her goals, she shadowed an assisted living facility executive director during her graduate internship. 

“I got to see all the ins and outs of what goes on on a daily basis, how to run things, how to do things,” she says. 

The program has helped her put her classroom skills to action in real life.

Learning About the Aging Population

“Every class that I’ve had so far has just given me insight of what it’s going to be like associating with this specific age group,” she says.

She’s learned about mental and physical changes, age-related changes in emotional processes, and how aging affects different age groups, genders, and ethnicities differently. For example, she learned about the implications of women having a longer life expectancy than men.

“Since women tend to live longer, if they are unable to provide for themselves, family members must make a choice whether or not to put them in a facility or take care of them on their own,” she says. “With the rising population of baby boomers hitting the upper age levels, long-term care will become more and more high demand. This will put an increased strain on federal and state budgets because the oldest have the highest disability rates.”

Earning a Master’s Online

The online Gerontology program helps students meet the needs of the growing elderly population in the United States. 

Through applied learning and research, students:

  • learn the basic processes of aging
  • apply theoretical approaches to aging to their particular fields and circumstances
  • evaluate information about older adults from various sources and perspectives

Learning online offers flexibility. Norris continues to work full time as a legal assistant while completing her degree, working a few hours a day four days a week on her assignments — readings, discussion posts, group projects, and papers. Organizing assignments and deadlines helps her stay on top of her work. 

Creating a Place in the Online Community

Last year, Norris was inducted into Sigma Phi Omega, a national academic honor and professional society that recognizes students for achievement in gerontology. A gerontology club helps her to socialize with peers. 

Small classes have allowed Norris to get to know both classmates and professors. She can rely on a few classmates anytime and has gotten to know them outside of class.

“Everyone is very helpful and if anyone has a question, anyone in the program will answer it for you,” she says.

Learn More

Want to know more about the MS in Gerontology? Download a brochure.