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Behavioral Sciences Division

Course Descriptions

The Gerontology major consists of 56 hours of focused coursework beyond introductory coursework (there are no hidden prerequisites in the required coursework). Please note that courses approved by WOU’s Faculty Senate during the 2010/2011 academic year have an asterisks in front of them.


If you are planning your Gerontology major, you should meet with an adviser. For an abreviated description of the major requirements and coursework click here.


To learn more about the minor requirements click here.


These course descriptions are taken from the WOU Academic Course Catalog.



Required Courses (36 hours)


PSY 201 General Psychology I (4 credits)
A study of the science of human behavior and experience. Areas covered may include:  biological bases of behavior, learning, memory, motivation, perception, cognition and development.


PSY 202 General Psychology II (4 credits)
A study of the science of human behavior and experience. Areas covered may include: consciousness, personality, health psychology, abnormal behavior, psychotherapy and social psychology.


PSY 301W Introduction to Research Methods (4 credits) An exploration of psychological research including topics of design, methodology, statistical analysis and report writing. Prerequisites: PSY 201 and PSY 202 or equivalent.


PSY 311 Developmental Psychology (4 credits)
The psychological study of human development from conception to death. Stages and issues of development throughout the lifespan are identified and examined. Prerequisite:  PSY 201 or PSY 218 or equivalent.


PSY 320 Introduction to Geropsychology (4 credits)
Explores the relationships between psychological, physiological, behavioral, cognitive, and social aspects of older adults’ lives. In addition, topics related to living environments, retirement, social support, family relationships, and diseases of older adulthood will be covered.


* - GERO 360 Cognitive and Physical Changes in Aging (4 credits)
This course will survey normal and pathological cognitive and physical changes occurring from middle age through older age. Course emphasis will be on basic age-related changes and their implications for behavior and quality of life in older age. Topics include biological processes, theories


* - GERO 430 Palliative Care and Chronic Illness (4 credits)
An overview of the principles and practices of palliative care practices for life-limiting illness and application to chronic illness. This course will address psychosocial needs, pain and symptom management, effective communication, and grief and bereavement as these issues relate to end-of-life care in older adults. An historical background of the hospice movement leading to the development of current philosophy of palliative care will be explored.


* - GERO 460 Retirement/LTC Housing for the Elderly (4 credits)
This course will consider long-term care environments as well as the broader retirement living options. Topics will include the different types of living and care environments (e.g., independent, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care). The course will help students develop a foundational understanding of the planning, managing, and delivering of services specific to the type of living environment. Students will also be exposed to basic regulatory structures and how Medicare and Medicaid interface with the long-term care industry. When possible, a biopsychosocial perspective will be taken to analyze the above living environments. Prerequisites: PSY 311.


* - GERO 370 Aging and Mental Health (4 credits)
Mental health needs of older adults will be surveyed. Positive mental health and pathological conditions will be explored as well as risk and protective factors for mental health problems. The course will also include a broad survey of common psychological disorders experienced by older adults. Interventions effective with older adults and their families will be explored. Prerequisites: PSY 311.




Elective Courses (20 hours)


Elective Portion A (select at least two courses)


* - GERO 409 Practicum (1 – 9 credits; up to 4 hours can count toward the major) Field experience in gerontology. Course may be repeated for credit if content is different. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.
   Course Goal and Objectives:


* - GERO 440 Health Care Operations (4 credits)
Administration of long-term care institutions and communities will be explored, along the continuum of care. Emphasis will be placed on informed problem solving and decision-making via analysis of the psychosocial and sociocultural environment in retirement, assisted living and skilled nursing home communities. Topics such as resident services, marketing, activities, maintenance, and emerging trends will be covered. Prerequisite: PSY 311.


* - GERO 470 Regulatory and Clinical Operations of Long Term Care (4 credits)
This course will familiarize the student with the basic aspects of nursing home administration through the practical application of management theory and concepts. The course will also familiarize students with basic regulations and audits that are applied to long term care facilities. Students will learn how to maximize resident and patient quality of life through an interdisciplinary approach to long-term care management (e.g., psychological, sociocultural, economic, and biological considerations).


* - GERO 480 Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Management (4 credits)
This course will provide instruction on effective approaches for providing care to persons with Alzheimer's disease, other types of dementia and related disorders in residential and home care settings. The major types of dementia and typical behaviors presented by patients are presented along with strategies for successful behavior management. Building a dementia care program and dementia care teams are also covered. This course will also cover risk factors for developing dementia, the neuroscience of dementia, and strategies to reduce the chance of developing dementia. Prerequisites: PSY 311.


* - PSY 420 Advanced Topics in Geropsychology (4 credits)
Each time this course is offered a single special topic in geropsychology or gerontology will be studied in-depth. Topics may include diseases of older adulthood, applied applications of gerontology, social aspects of aging, long-term care issues, regulatory issues, brain health, or the effects of positive lifestyles on the aging process. May be repeated under different subtitles. Prerequisite: Psy 201 and 311 or equivalent.
   Course Goal and Objectives:

The goal of the course is to provide advanced training to students related to the theories and practices in the interdisciplinary field of geropsychology. Students will learn about the relationships between psychological, physiological, behavioral, cognitive, and social aspects of older adults’ lives. In addition, select topics related to living environments, retirement, social support, family relationships, regulatory issues, brain health, lifestyle factors, and diseases of older adulthood may be covered. This course will provide more advanced training after more basic courses provide a slid foundation in geropsychology and gerontology.



Elective Portion B (select at least two courses)


PSY 446 The Psychology of Leadership (4 credits)
Examines the psychological underpinnings of leadership in organizations from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Students will examine the myriad of theoretical approaches to understanding leadership including their strengths and weaknesses in aiding our understanding of effective (and ineffective)leadership. Prerequisites: PSY 201 and 202 or equivalent. PSY 334 recommended.


PSY 451 Biopsychology (4 credits)
A study of the ways that the physiology of the body is related to behavior. Sub-topics may include sleep and dreaming, learning and memory, pain, sexual behavior, disordered emotional states and psychopharmacologic agents. Prerequisites: PSY 201 and PSY 202 or equivalent.


PSY 460 Cognitive Neuroscience (1-4 credits)
This class covers advanced topics in cognitive science including cognitive development, cerebral localization of function, hemispheric interaction/differences, individual differences in cognition, object recognition, face recognition, spatial perception and neuropsychological disorders. Course may be repeated for credit if content is different. Prerequisite: PSY 360 or PSY 451.


PSY 483 Adulthood and Aging (4 credits)
Examination of current models of aging. Includes theory and research relevant to early, middle and late adulthood. Emphasis on applications of information concerning the issues of adulthood. Prerequisites: PSY 201, 202 and 311 or equivalent.


PSY 484 Death, Dying, and Grief (4 credits)
Focuses on numerous topics related to the developmental processes of death, dying and grief throughout the life-span. Prerequisites: PSY 201, 202 and 311 or equivalent.


PSY 423 Interviewing and Appraisal (4 credits)
Exploration of the interview as a method of information gathering and social influence. Topics include the uses of interviews, the strengths and weakness of the interview as a methodology, training in specific interviewing skills, and the relation of the interview to other methods of appraisal of human behavior. Prerequisite: PSY 201 and PSY 202 or equivalent.


PSY 445 Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (4 credits)
Students will examine how psychology is applied to workplace in settings such as industry, business, government, and social service. Topics include trends in organizational and job design, personnel selection and placement, training, performance appraisal, work motivation, job satisfaction and leadership. Prerequisites: PSY 201 and 202 or equivalent. PSY 334 recommended.


* - PSY 439 Positive Psychology (4 credits)
This course will examine psychological factors and principles that help explain positive outcomes, well-being and personal growth in humans.  Areas of focus will include positive emotional experiences and appraisals such as happiness, life satisfaction, well-being, positive personal characteristics, interests and values, and positive institutions as they promote growth and fulfilling experiences. There will be a significant applied component of the class in which students will explore their own reactions and personal qualities.


ANTH 395 Medical Anthropology (4 credits)
Introduction to Medical Anthropology, which takes up the analysis of health in the context of culture, social behavior, economic systems, and human biology. Designed to expose nursing and health students to crosscultural understanding of illness and health.


BA 211 Financial Accounting (4 credits)
Students will gain a basic understanding of how accounting is used by investors, managers, government agencies and others. Includes the study of transaction analysis with emphasis on accrual versus cash accounting, and the preparation, interpretation and use of financial statements.


BA 310 Principles of Marketing (3 credits)
Introduces the theories, concepts and terms that marketers use in their daily planning activities. Begins with an overview of strategic marketing planning. Strategic elements of the marketing plan (target definition, product strategy, distribution strategy, promotion strategy and price strategy) are examined in greater detail.


BA 391 Human Resource Management (3 credits)
An introduction to personnel functions. Topics include personnel planning, recruitment, promotion and personnel development, employee compensation and motivation, job analysis and design, supplemental benefits, labor relations and occupational health and safety. Prerequisites: BA 361 and BA 362 (or BA 370 or BA 390).


HE 227 Community and Public Health (4 credits)
A foundational overview of public health concepts and practice. Introduction to the core functions of public health, prevention of diseases and injuries, health needs of special populations, functions of voluntary and governmental organizations, and future directions of public health.


HE 325 Nutrition (4 credits)
Overview of components of a healthful diet and determinants of food choices. Focus on interpretation and application of nutrition research.


HE 375 Epidemiology (4 credits)
Evaluation of patterns and determinants of health and disease in populations. Focus on the history of epidemiology, major causes of morbidity and mortality, methods of disease occurrence, study design, association and causation, and how to address public health problems using epidemiological methods.


HE 411 Health Communication (4 credits)
Analysis of the process and impact of media messages on health behavior and the development of effective messages in health promotion and education. Focus on social marketing, media advocacy and media literacy.


HE 434W Diseases (4 credits)
Study of modern concepts of disease, characteristics of common infectious and chronic diseases, and practices and programs to prevent and control specific diseases.


HE 485W Bioethics and Public Health (4 credits)
Review of basic ethical theories. Examination of moral principles and decisions associated with medical treatments, technologies, policies and research.


HST 484 Health, Medicine and Gender in Historical Perspective (4 credits)
This course presents three key areas of analysis for the study of health, medicine and gender in historical perspective. The first concerns gendered ideas about sexuality and gender roles and how these relate to health care in history. The second is a comparative examination of women and men as health care providers in different cultures. The third is a focus on women and men as recipients of health care and as health care activists.


PS 350 Intro to Public Policy (3 credits)
An investigation of the political processes and substantive content of American public policy, patterns of problem identification, policy creation, approval, implementation, and evaluation. Consideration of selected contemporary national, state and local policies.


PS 430 The Aging Society (3 credits)
Analyzes the demographic, economic, social, and political dimensions of our aging population. The unique nature, needs and policy implications of the growing elderly population receive particular attention.


PS 433 Healthcare Politics and Policy (3 credits)
Course examines the fundamentals of health care access in the United States. Specific topics include: the Medicare and Medicaid systems; the evolving nature of private health care insurance systems; the concerns and influence of interest groups and political parties in this field; and the prospects of reform.


* - Notes new courses that were approved by WOU’s Faculty Senate during the 2010/2011 academic year.


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Gerontology (503) 838-8344 | or e-mail:
Location: Todd Hall 325