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Second annual 'Careers in Aging' networking event held at PCC Sylvania

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To celebrate the nationally recognized “Careers in Aging Week,” the Gerontology program hosted its second networking event on April 17 at the Sylvania Campus, bringing together nearly 75 students, faculty and community partners, including AARP Oregon, Elders in Action, Earthtones Music Therapy, Life By Design, working gerontologists and elder care facilities, among others. The event also honored the achievements of several soon-to-be graduates of the program.

Jan Abushakrah, director and department chair of the program based at Sylvania Campus, kicked off the reception with a welcome to attendees and an introduction of PCC President Preston Pulliams, who addressed the need for trained workers in the industry before posing for photos with individual graduates.

“Americans are living longer and are healthier than ever before,” said Abushakrah. “Those making it to age 60 might very well have another third of their lives ahead of them – which means the sky is the limit, in terms of what they can do and what they can contribute.”

This new longevity also paints a different picture of the average gerontology student. Of the 152 students in the program, the average age is 44; 40 percent are 50 and older; 63 percent are 40 and older; and 62 percent are first-generation college students.

The Gerontology program offers a one-year certificate and two-year degree. But with a new online option, students throughout the state can access PCC’s gerontology courses while studying at their local college or university, or earn a certificate or degree entirely online through the college. Students have a wide range of electives to choose from; they also can earn a degree or certificate with one from an ancillary program, such as fitness technology, allied health fields, nursing, business, management or alcohol and drug counseling.

“Since offering ‘co-certificates’ with other programs – like fitness technology – we’ve seen a huge jump in our enrollment,” said Abushakrah.

Additionally, PCC offers short term certificates of completion to prepare students for immediate employment, enabling them to work while they continue their education. Certificates of completion are available in the areas of activity professionals; advanced behavioral and cognitive care; and therapeutic horticulture. The college also offers a unique peer mentor program stemming from a MetLife/Civic Ventures grant. Eight peer mentors work with older gerontology students, to provide support, tutoring, coaching and encouragement.

“It offers our students that extra support they might need, enabling them to get over barriers that might otherwise impede their progress,” says Abushakrah.

For more information about the Gerontology program, visit

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »


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