Every Monday, Ellis Fribush volunteers his time to assist patients in the outpatient geriatric day hospital of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Health System. Five days a week, Jim Gorman -- his friend and schoolmate -- commutes to the Adult Medical Day Care Center in Towson to work as a program aide helping elderly participants.
Through their work, both men are gaining practical experience in working with senior citizens. And on Thursday evenings, they meet at the school library to prepare for their classroom studies about adulthood and aging at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.
The graduate program, which was established in 1988, includes courses which examine the process of adulthood and aging from spiritual, psychological, physiological, political and social perspectives. Students receive a liberal arts education and are primarily preparing for administrative-type positions.
As part of the curriculum, students can earn college credits for practical, supervised work in the field, said Michael Storey, director of graduate studies for the college.
"I think this helps them to get a good, concrete sense of what work in the field would be like," Dr. Storey said. "It's a good reality check. 'Does my program really relate to the work I want to do?' "
About half of the approximately 65 students enrolled in the program have "four, five, six or seven courses under their belts and some of them are beginning to think about getting into internships," Dr. Storey added.
Some students have focused on the public policy side of aging, seeking out volunteer jobs with the American Association of Retired Persons or the House Select Committee on Aging. Others, like Mr. Fribush and Mr. Gorman, are doing hands-on work with the elderly.
Working as an aide at the adult day care center for seniors has "given me a real appreciation of what needs to be done for our growing older generation," Mr. Gorman, who is 58, said.
"So much educating needs to be done about what happens to older people. There are an awful lot of families out there who have people who need caring for. These people really need somebody to make them feel a little important. They need somebody to uplift them," he added.