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New certificate combines aging and entrepreneurship

Beginning this fall, students who have earned an undergraduate degree can pursue Miami's Social Entrepreneurship & Aging Graduate Certificate (SEA), a collaboration among the Department of Sociology and Gerontology, the Scripps Gerontology Center and the Farmer School of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship.

The program teaches skills in gerontology and entrepreneurship with the goal of creating businesses and products that target the aging population.

"How do we inspire entrepreneurs to help make a better life for an aging population? Because we have such a large number that are aging," said Aaron Abbott, a faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Gerontology who has helped launch SEA. "When you look around within the U.S. or at least within the university systems in the U.S., you don't see a lot of other programs that have blended this idea of social entrepreneurship and aging together."

The year-long certificate program consists of four courses: GTY 601 (New Frontiers in Aging), ESP 501 (Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Business Models), GTY 612 (Innovations and Trends in the Aging Marketplace) and ESP 590 (Launching an Entrepreneurial Venture).

Each course is three credit hours and will be taught online through Canvas during a 10-week period.

In the first gerontology course, students will learn about the basics of aging, such as the theory of aging, changes that occur when one ages and how policies like Medicare and Medicaid affect aging adults. The second gerontology course then focuses on long-term services and support and what the industry looks like for aging adults.

Though aging is a universal experience, the aging population is often overlooked, making gerontology an important field of study, said first-year Jessica Boemker, who took GTY 154 (Big Ideas in Aging) in Fall 2016.

"I think it's important because we have a very large aging population right now, and it's only getting larger, and we are super unprepared for dealing with all of those people," Boemker said. "There's just not a lot of time invested into the aging population because it's something that not a lot of people think about until they get there."

Abbott and Brett Smith, Founding Director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship, created the program with three groups in mind: traditional entrepreneurs, those already involved in organizations that support the aging but want formal education on aging and those pursuing encore careers -- careers one begins later in life after retiring from an initial career.

Abbott hopes about 10 to 20 students will enroll in the program for its first session and that the program will grow as more people understand its purpose. Regardless of numbers, Abbott is ultimately eager to see what students will do with what they learn.

"It'll be interesting to see what kind of things come out of it," Abbott said. "It's one thing to teach it, but another to watch three or four years later, the business ideas that come out and get delivered in the marketplace."