After retiring early from a career with AT&T, Corinne Jones went back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science. She remembers it was a class on elder law where she got her first taste of gerontology.
It excited Jones so much that one of her undergraduate professors took notice and encouraged her to pursue a Master of Arts degree at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, the largest gerontology program in the nation.
She agreed and in 2016 became one of hundreds of thousands of Americans over age 50 going back to school—in her case, for a second time to study a fascinating field that she knew could take her in any number of directions. USC’s degree program in gerontology explores all aspects of human development and aging using a multidisciplinary approach and embracing students of all ages and background.
Jones was 66 years old when she earned her Master of Arts degree and was an honor student with recognition by Sigma Phi Omega, the gerontology honor society. She knows that students like her are changing the course of ageism, and USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology is the perfect place to do that.
“There’s a place for everyone,” Jones says, adding that it was the “perfect option” for her. “USC is the oldest school of gerontology in the United States. Why would I go anywhere else when I had the best school right here?”
Hands-on education with real-life impact
Jones, who graduated in May 2018, was not disappointed. During her studies, she says she was impressed by professors who are both skilled and engaging.
“They bring a world of experience, knowledge and background that you can’t get out of a book,” she says. “It was an opportunity to sit with people who are right on the cutting-edge of what’s going on.”
One of her favorite professors was Instructional Associate Professor Caroline Cicero, PhD, MSW, MPL, whose research has covered age-friendly communities, visual gerontology, and attachment to place. In fact, Jones took a special class with Cicero that allowed her and her classmates to work with Los Angeles County municipalities to explore solutions for older adults who want to remain in their home and community of choice.
The class even created apps that identify locations with hazardous sidewalks and busy roads where traffic is a concern for older adults.
“The outcome of that semester class was that several of the cities, including Culver City, applied to AARP to be designated as an aging in place community,” Jones says. “It was rewarding and exciting because we were doing real work, even though we were students.”
Among other professors, she says UPS Foundation Professor of Gerontology, Policy and Planning Jon Pynoos was “excellent.” She also valued Instructional Associate Professor of Gerontology Paul Nash for his advanced knowledge and coursework.
Jones has since put her learning into practice. As the Multipurpose Senior Services Program director for Community Care, which serves Lake and Mendocino Counties, she administers a program funded through the California Department of Aging. Clients are low income, frail, older adults 65 and over, who are certified as at risk for nursing home placement. The program offers services which allow them to remain in their homes. Jones’ site is one of 38 in place throughout the state.
The people who interviewed her for the job were “totally impressed” by her USC degree, she says. And she is thankful that the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, with its pioneering faculty and rigorous training, prepared her so well to do it.
“The program is current and relevant,” she says. “It had everything that I needed to walk away as a graduate and get a top job running one of California’s top programs for older adults.”
By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65, making the need for people who understand aging (and its implications for society) all the greater. With that in mind, Jones says she knows that her USC gerontology degree has positioned her well for the future.
“Hitch yourself to something that will benefit older adults. If you do that, I guarantee you’ll be successful,” Jones says. “The field is growing, and it’s attached to everything we do.”