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This spring, new sections of Special Topics in Gerontology (GERO 499) allow students to explore the intersections of aging with the media, the arts, business, and more.

Details about this spring’s topics are below. The special topics classes are open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Davis School students can learn more about signing up for classes and fitting courses into their schedule by contacting Academic Advisor Jim De Vera at (213) 740-1729 or .

The Public Understanding of Science

2.0 units, Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00-7:30pm

Instructor: Hamed Mirzaei, PhD

This course is designed to create a bridge between “physical/life” and “social” sciences while also trying to create a common ground on which the novice or nonprofessional can engage in scientific reasoning. In this course, students will discuss and evaluate current and past topics in the sciences and social sciences and will learn to distinguish between the superficial understandings that are often a unilateral view presented by the media and the actual meaning. Students will learn to examine and separate facts from media myth. This course will provide students with the tools necessary to understand the scientific language, scientific findings, and its implication in day-to-day events, but more importantly how misrepresentation of scientific findings by various mediums results in misconceptions and ultimately wrong conclusions that may influence decision-making.

Retirement 2.0: Preparing for a New Life Stage

2.0 units, Thursdays 2:00-4:00pm

Instructor: Helen Dennis, MA

We are in the midst of a retirement revolution that is challenging our traditional expectations, aspirations, and opportunities in later life. With increased longevity, the emerging new retirement has commanded interest from stakeholders that include startups, the retirement and financial planning industries, life coaches, technology innovators, marketers, nonprofits, established businesses, housing developers, the media, policymakers, and many others. Learn about how and why individuals need to prepare for this new stage, the dramatic changes in retirement, and the forces contributing to this change from both individual and stakeholder perspectives.

Spirituality, Creativity, and Conscious Aging: Composing New Narratives for Experiencing Aging

4.0 units, Wednesdays 9:00-11:50am

Instructor: Leah Marie Buturain Schneider, PhD

This course invites students to become aware of their own attitudes towards and feelings about aging and cultivate a curiosity about the possibilities for growth and change at all stages of the life cycle. The humanities, arts, and cultural studies offer new lenses and pathways for a more empathic engagement with the aging process, and course materials incorporate an interdisciplinary curriculum, one designed to build on sociological and scientific knowledge of aging.

Course content and guest artists highlight the paradoxes of growing older, of the process of aging’s possibilities, and disappointments in light of life’s changes, losses, and finitude. Conscious Aging raises questions about what cannot be measured yet valued as immeasurably worthy: the resources of the human will, intellect, spirit, and imagination to adapt, improvise, and be resilient in the face of changes beyond the individual’s control.

Gamification of Applied Gerontology

2.0 units, Tuesdays 2:00-4:00pm

Instructor: Elie Gindi, MBA, JD

Gamification is a relatively new approach to solving large problems in large businesses and can apply directly to businesses and services that serve older adults. At the core of gamification is the application of game design thinking and game elements in non-game contexts. In this new course, students will learn about gamification and hot to apply a six-step framework that can be used to create gamified solutions in the field of gerontology or any business or social service.

Students will “level up” in their ability to analyze problems and create solutions by preparing or developing multiple frameworks during the course. Throughout the semester experts in gerontology and related businesses serving older adults will introduce real world gerontology issues to the class. Students will take a hands-on approach, developing and presenting game solutions for problems presented by the experts using what they’ve learned in the class, the best of which will be submitted to the experts for their comments.

The Science of SuperBetter

2.0 units, Wednesdays 2:00-3:50pm

Instructor: Elie Gindi, MBA, JD

SuperBetter™ is a new approach to managing difficult moments in life. The ideas are described by a Stanford scientist and are applied in a smartphone application that provides people dealing with life challenges with engaging, interactive games to help them achieve wellness goals. The SuperBetter approach, based on positive psychology, has been shown to be associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety after six weeks. The method advocates the adoption of a gameful mindset which, if implemented correctly, could increase happiness and life satisfaction for older adults. Students will experience the approach directly by playing games and completing quests. They will review the research of these games and assess applications for the elder population. Students will develop an in-depth knowledge of a specific challenge for older people through a self-directed research project.

Alternate Reality Games and Gerontology

2.0 units, Thursdays 2:00-3:50pm

Instructor: Elie Gindi, MBA, JD

Life is not perfect for anyone, particularly older adults. Alternate Reality Games (ARG) offer an opportunity to experience life more as we hope it is. Golf, Scrabble, Bejeweled, Chore Wars, Foursquare—our lives abound with examples of ARGs. Rather than escaping our real-world life challenges, we can learn new approaches to managing our issues through immersive, massively multiplayer experiences and games that require multiple days, months, or years of thought and interaction.
Engaging in ARGs trains people in hard-to-master skills that make collaboration more productive and satisfying. Experiencing ARGs will provide students with a way to prototype and test experimental solutions to challenges they personally face. Students will learn how to develop Alternate Reality Games that address the needs of older adults and will collaborate to create an Alternate Reality Game to solve significant issues faced by older adults.

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