New needs and problems caused by rapid changes in the aging society have become the focus of attention of worldwide governments and civil societies. It presents serious challenges and is the responsibility of the entire community—that is, the elderly, their families, the private sectors, and the government—to create an affordable society where the elderly can have a life with dignity and autonomy.
There are strong demands for aging related policies, industries, and services in Taiwan. Gerontological and geriatric professionals have created several professional organizations such as Taiwan Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics, Taiwan Long-Term Care Professional Association, Federation for the Welfare of the Elderly, Taiwan Association of Gerontology, and others to promote the awareness, research, and policies of elderly care. However, the institutes of higher education in elderly care consist of either an uni disciplinary department of elderly services or scattered subdivisions within the departments of social welfare or social workers. There is a huge gap between the demand for social and health care for the elderly and the cultivation of professionals to care for them. To fill in the gap, a new institute for cultivation of the practitioners, professors and research professionals in elderly care was urgently needed.
The Institute of Gerontology, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan, Taiwan was established in 2006. It was professor Hahn Liang Cheng who initiated and guided the establishment of the Institute in our medical school.
Professor Hahn has been working as a clinical professor at the College of Medicine, NCKU and as a part-time attending physician in the Department of Emergency (DOE) of the National Cheng Kung University Hospital (NCKUH) since the latter’s establishment in 1988. He is responsible for the clinical teaching of patient care in emergency rooms. He understood the difficulty of diagnosing and treating elderly patients during his years of practice and teaching in the DOE. He also recognized that the treatments of the medical problems of the elderly patients are not merely a medical issue. He firmly believed that geriatric medicine should be combined with other disciplines to provide comprehensive care for the elderly patients and that the multidisciplinary team members should engage with each other in in-depth, interactive discussions. In facing the trends of increasing life span and aging population, these personal experiences, beliefs, and visions led him to establish the Master of Science (MS) program in gerontology at the NCKU Medical Center.
With the help from a relative of a patient admitted to the emergency room at NCKUH, Dr. Hahn, Dr. Sung Ruey Jen (former dean of the Medical School, 2002-2007) and Dr. Lin Xi Hang (former director of the Department of Internal Medicine, 2005-2007) pursued the establishment of the MS program in gerontology with perseverance and finally won the approval of the University and the Ministry of Education in October 2006. In September 2007, the first group of the graduate students of the masters program was admitted. It was the first batch of masters students in gerontology in Taiwan.
1. Purpose of Establishment
Gerontology is an integrated and multidisciplinary field consisting of studying the individual experience of normal aging processes in the physical, psychological and social dimensions and the processes of the development of aging societies. Our departmental curriculum focuses on integrated teaching and research. It aims to provide graduate students the necessary knowledge, policy-making concepts and innovative services models in the field of gerontology. From there, they can increase their expertise, broaden their worldview, and enhance their interdisciplinary knowledge and coordination capabilities. In line with the University’s mission, the program also intends to inspire the students’ enthusiasm for social services via humanities and social caring, and enhance their international perspectives and abilities of international cooperation.
3. Educational Goals and Core Competencies
I. Educational goals
1. Nurture the graduate students’ interdisciplinary expertise in both the theory and practice of gerontology.
2. Increase their leadership abilities in integrative thinking and innovation regarding the issues concerning the elderly.
3. Increase their abilities for independent learning, raise awareness towards current social issues, and adapt to social changes.
4. Direct their enthusiasm of social services towards humanities and social caring.
5. Enhance their international perspectives and abilities to collaborate worldwide.
II. Core competencies
Core competencies include basic and advanced competencies. Basic competencies involve knowledge, skills and attitude. Advanced competencies involve practical use and social participation.
(A) Basic competencies
1. Grasp the structural changes and secular trends of a locally and globally aging society.
2. Integrate concepts of sociological gerontology into geriatric medicine research, and integrate basic geriatric knowledge into gerontological research.
3. Utilize theoretical concepts to collect data and use research methods to evaluate and analyze the research problems to conduct a study and write a thesis independently.
4. Enhance the communication skills required in academic and practical workplaces.
5. Improve the cooperative teamwork skills required in academic and practical workplaces.
6. Have a passion for service of humanity and society.
(B) Advanced competencies
1. Understand the regional communities and have the perspective of the cross-country comparisons.
2. Analyze and critique local and global aging policies and issues.
3. Develop and evaluate the implementation strategies and the effectiveness of aging policies.
4. Shape the vision of a successful aging society.
4. Institute Characteristics
The Institute of Gerontology belongs to the Medical College of NCKU, one of nine colleges in the comprehensive University. As a result, the Institute can easily combine geriatricians and teachers from affiliated health and non-medical colleges in the University. In addition, students’ clinical practice training can take place in both the geriatric outpatient clinics and wards of the Department of Internal Medicine and of the Department of Family Medicine to establish an interdisciplinary learning mechanism and environment. It is hoped that students from both medical and non-medical backgrounds can develop the knowledge and skills of holistic healthcare and humanitarian care in gerontology.
In addition, the focus of teaching and research is not limited to the role of "consumption" of the elderly population and related issues of the basic knowledge in gerontology, but also stresses the “producer” role of the elderly population, emphasizing on its various potentials, how to expand its "producer" role in elderly policies and services, and the social conditions required for this kind of creative transformation. The focuses of teaching and research and the strategies for development are as follows:
I. Focus of Teaching and research
1. Develop outcome-oriented, effectiveness studies of aging policies, including those on geriatric medicine development, long-term care, senior citizens labor participation promotion, dementia services, senior education, and senior citizens’ housing policies.
2. Emphasize the comprehensive characteristics of studies of geriatric medicine discussing health problems of elderly people such as dementia, falling, malnutrition, and others in relation to individuals, families, communities and societies.
3. Develop local aging community health-management research by collaborating with the faculty members of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Social Sciences, the College of Management, and the College of Planning and Design, and establishing partnerships with schools, communities and city government through the adoption of communities in order to create an "age-friendly model community" as a goal to do a long-term follow-up study.
II. Strategies for development
1. Split the curriculum into five major areas; namely, geriatrics, psychological gerontology, social gerontology, aging policy, service delivery and management, and research methodology and statistics. Through the integration of the teachers' expertise and the private sector’s creation of multi-disciplinary required courses, we will establish the framework between the five major areas of the curriculum and invite full-time and part-time teachers and industry experts to co-teach.
2. All graduate students from the three subgroups will be required to take two required courses: Overview of Geriatric Medicine and Social Gerontology. This is to urge the students from different backgrounds to interact and learn from each other and to encourage the students to make more use of campus resources for interdisciplinary elective courses.
3. Integrate teaching and research team members of various disciplines and their research topics through an aging community health governance research platform and share the limited research resources and products.
4. Establish teaching, research, and services support teams in union with resources from alumni to help graduates find the best jobs and contribute to the service sectors for the elderly.
5. Publication: Gerontology Forum
Gerontology is an emerging discipline: according to the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics Society (IAGG), there are only 120 academic institutes bestowing masters or doctorate degrees related to gerontology and only 25 departments or colleges using the word "gerontology" in their names (http://www.iagg.com.br/webforms/ iaggInstituicoes.aspx) in the world. In other words, the relevant training programs in gerontology were under other disciplines, such as medicine, biology, nursing, public health, management science, psychology, sociology, anthropology, education, and social work. Therefore, there was no consensus with regard to what content should be included in the training programs of gerontology. Some people from the macro perspective explored the changes of aging process in the physical, psychological and social realm. Some people explored the biological basis of aging and the development of the disease from the individual perspective. Others discussed the impact of aging population on social systems such as pensions and health insurance. On the application level, the discussions focused mostly on medical care, living assistance design, health promotion planning and operation of care facilities for the elderly.
The Institute of Gerontology, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University is currently the first and only institute in Taiwan for graduate studies in gerontology. It stresses the integration of a variety of disciplines and strives to establish the foundation and direction for development of gerontology research and professional training in Taiwan. In order to increase our students’ multidisciplinary learning and let our institute become known by the outside world, we invited at least eight experts or scholars each semester to deliver keynote speeches on topics such as geriatric assessment, psychology, and sociology; education, health promotion, and social welfare institutions for the elderly; long-term care industry and policy; the social security system; and humanitarian industrial design. These speeches not only inspired our teachers and students but also allowed us to understand the broad scope of gerontological research and our insufficient knowledge. Under the encouragement and sponsorship of visiting professor Dr. Tsai Wen Hui, we founded an electronic publication, the Gerontology Forum, to be a gerontology research information platform so that gerontology experts, scholars, students, and interested community members can have an exchange corner to understand and participate in gerontology research.
This quarterly publication is published online only on the fifteenth day of February, May, August, and December. Thirty issues of the Gerontology Forum have been released since 2009. The content of each issue included gerontology research articles, book reviews, responses to research publications, interviews with various experts and scholars, recent seminars and conferences, events for senior citizens, and much more. We welcome everyone, inside and outside the campus, who are interested in gerontology research and elderly issues to submit their publications. We also welcome elderly friends to share their life experiences and feelings to enrich the contents of the Gerontology Forum.