Psychogerontology: History and Characteristics

Psychogerontology is a branch of psychology that has grown a lot in recent years thanks to the growth of a sector of the population and their particular needs.


Psychology is a science that studies, among other areas, the affective, cognitive emotional and behavioral fields in which we live. In addition, it has various branches to organize knowledge and one of them is psychogerontology.

It is the science that studies aging from a psychological point of view. So, just as there are child psychologists, there are psychologists who specialize in the problems of the elderly. In this article we will try to explain what is the origin of psychogerontology and we will discuss its characteristics. In addition, we will show the benefits of having the help of a psychogerontologist.

“We love old cathedrals, old furniture, old coins, old paintings and old books, but we have completely forgotten the enormous moral and spiritual value of the elderly.”

-Lin Yutang-

History of psychogerontology

Psychogerontology does not have a historical milestone that is marked as an origin. So, rather, to find it we look at two points: in the scientific psychology that originates with Wundt in 1879 and in gerontology with Metchinikoff in 1903.

On the other hand, today we are witnessing a phenomenon that is giving more and more relevance to psychogerontology: developed countries increasingly have a more aging population. Thus, accompanying the increase in life expectancy there was a drastic drop in the birth rate in many countries. Spain is a clear example of these two trends.

Thus, the circumstances themselves have fueled the need to study the elderly. Thus, interventions aimed at this sector of the population have been improved.

On the other hand, there are many researchers who have contributed knowledge to psychogerontology, being one of the most outstanding figures Professor James Birren. This formulated that, just as gerontology was concerned with old age, the psychology of aging had to deal with the study of: the processes that occur during the life cycle and the processes of stability and change. In addition, of the cognitive, motor and emotional variables of the elderly.

Characteristics of psychogerontology

Psychogerontology is characterized by different elements or points. Let’s look at some of them below:

  • Study the development of the life cycle. Psychogerontology goes hand in hand with evolutionary psychology, which studies how we are developing throughout life.
  • Promotes optimal aging Psychogerontology is concerned with promoting health and preventing disease or making it more bearable in the elderly.
  • It promotes the well-being of caregivers of the elderly. He not only cares about the older adult but about the people around him. Thus, it promotes the welfare of both parties.
  • Through psychoeducation, it generates learning in the elderly, so that they know how to manage their thoughts, behaviors and emotions. In addition, it also facilitates study at this age for those who are interested.
  • Investigate everything related to the elderly.
  • Intervention. Many of the interventions he proposes are based on clinical psychology and social psychology. Thus, it uses both group work techniques and individual psychotherapy. It also intervenes with families and day centers.
  • Protect the rights. Through legal psychology. Above all, in processes of legal incapacitation. In addition, it helps to promote the welfare of the elderly through the promotion and prevention of social services that will emphasize their health, culture and leisure.

The professionals who are dedicated to psychogerontology are psychogerontologists. To become one, psychology is first studied and then the specialty is done in this area.

In addition, psychogerontology is not only dedicated to what we have mentioned above.

It also intervenes in the organizational field. How? According to the article by Luis Santamaría, in which he talks about the role of the psychologist in psychogerontology, the psychogerontologist participates in the processes of selection, evaluation, orientation, training, and development of the staff working for the elderly.

In the same way, it investigates the market to study the needs in the elderly population. For example, through gerontological programs and projects.

Benefits of having this branch of psychology

That there is this branch of psychology brings great benefits. Let’s see some of them:

  • It can be counted on: evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and intervention in the elderly when it has difficulties or wants to enhance abilities at the cognitive, affective, functional, social support and behavioral levels.
  • Prevention of the disease and promotion of health in the community and in the elderly, with the aim of “giving life to the years”.
  • Research and teaching in psychogerontology, so that there is an advance in the knowledge of this science.
  • Advice and consultancy aimed at institutions aimed at the elderly.
  • Direct attention to: seniors, family members, and workers.
  • Training for workers, carers and the elderly.
  • Sociojurid protection of the elderly.
  • Family mediation
  • Dementias prevention.
  • Psychostimulation
  • Have affective validation therapy.
  • Support groups.

In addition, psychogerontology offers selection, training and prevention of stress in caregivers. It’s wonderful, because not only do you think about the elderly, but you also care about those around you.

That there is a branch of psychology dedicated to the elderly is great news for an increasingly larger sector of the population. Through this branch we can approach the older adult in a more accurate and accurate way. On the other hand, for the psychologist it is a precious work opportunity because of the great value that can be contributed to society from this specialty.