Amal recently completed the Graduate Certificate in Applied Gerontology while living in Oman, and opened up with us about her experience and plans for the future.
What led you to pursue a certificate in aging studies?
My interest to pursue the certificate was a conclusion of 12 years of work experience as a nursing educator that consisted of multiple roles and responsibilities with a main focus on teaching the community health-nursing course. The area of aging became a topic of interest for me when working with nursing students and as a volunteer to provide social support for families who were caring for older adults, especially those with dementia. It was often observed by me and verbalized by caregivers, including family members and community health nurses, that caring for older adults often makes care giving extremely challenging. This is worsening by the lack of knowledge around the exact contributing factors and the failure to have the right understanding of this older adult population. Most of all, my inspiration had always been my father-in-law, who was the leader of his tribe before he developed a stroke in 2013 and required full assistance with his daily living activities. He was 96 years old when it all started.
I also believed that obtaining the certificate would be a positive addition to my PhD focus. My PhD dissertation study focuses on studying the correlation of size of core networks and frequency of contacts with agitation and positive effects in older adults with dementia in Oman.
I concluded that as a caregiver, I should be able not only to understand the older adults’ behaviors, but also to decode them into communication signals in order to meet their needs in an effective way. Analyzing the concept of aging showed that caregivers, including family members, have different understandings of the nature of aging and its effect on older adults, especially elderly with dementia. I was convinced that pursuing this certificate was going to enlighten me furthermore in the field of aging and to prepare me as a person with adequate knowledge and understanding to provide effective care for older adults in Oman.
What drew you to UWM’s online program?
My goal had been always focused in finding an excellent university with high quality programs to harbor and mentor me closely, to identify my specific learning needs, and to provide me with the education I need. The online program was the only option for me in order to reach my dream considering the fact that I am a mother of four children, and it was almost impossible to travel for studies and leave them behind. The more research I did about the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s online program, the more I wanted to be a graduate of that institution. Therefore, I wanted to use the privilege of having the option of the online program in higher education to prove that education has no distance and no boundaries. Also, I wanted to show an example of myself that the graduates of the online programs are just as qualified as those who complete the on-campus program.
What do you plan to do with your certificate?
As a means of becoming a better pioneer in the field of aging, my goal is to broaden my endeavors in the geriatric health field, to participate in the overall planning of the health of this age population, and to influence a policy change in Oman to encourage incorporating more national programs of older adult care. I also want to train more clinicians to have the appropriate skills in conducting comprehensive older-adult assessments.
With the knowledge gained from pursuing the certificate and the phenomenon of aging, along with the results of my dissertation study, I will hopefully be able to provide sufficient recommendations to support the need to formulate an independent national older adult care committee that would be officially responsible for assessing, prioritizing, and planning for the anticipated care of older adults, especially those with dementia, who live at home due to increases in the demands of the geriatric population.
There are currently no nursing home facilities for older citizens in Oman, and the government does not encourage the establishment of such facilities because it believes that the community will be able to take care of its older adult population, as religion and tradition emphasize.
At a personal level, I am exploring the idea to construct an institute on aging that aims to bring together the expertise of researchers, educators, scholars, and clinicians with local, national, and international leading partners to mutually develop and provide better care, better systems, and better resources through qualified training and research for older adults and their caregivers in Oman.
What is the field of aging like in Oman?
In Oman, the older adult population represents 5.2% of the total population, and this figure is expected to reach 10% by 2025 and 20% by 2050.
Regardless of the growing number of the older adult population, the field of aging is still blended with other programs such as community health nursing and primary health care. There is not yet a structured identification of either specialties or career opportunities in the field of aging in Oman.
Is there anything else you would like to add about aging research or getting a certificate in aging?
I am very optimistic that pursing this certificate along with my PhD is the first and the right step towered the improvement of the field of aging and the health of older adults in Oman.
Interested in being part of our “Certificate Alumni Spotlight” series? Contact Rachelle Alioto at email@example.com