Homeostasis and complexity as integrating tools in gerontological education

Daniel Richardson, B. Jan McCulloch, Graham D. Rowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gerontological education is an interdisciplinary process that involves integrating biological, psychological, and sociological issues of aging. In this context, the Ph.D. program in Gerontology at the University of Kentucky has used the following two phenomena as integrating tools in its first year introductory courses: (1) homeostasis, defined as the maintenance of stability, and (2) complexity, a multi-faceted model of system evolution. This paper describes the development of these concepts, gives examples of their use, and summarizes student evaluations concerning the helpfulness of homeostasis and complexity in understanding biomedical and psychosocial issues of gerontology. Formal student evaluation consisted of an objective questionnaire administered at the end of the first year and a subjective written evaluation obtained upon completion of qualifying examinations at the end of the third year. On a scale of 1-10, results of the questionnaire at the end of the first year showed homeostasis to be significantly more helpful in understanding biomedical than psychosocial issues in gerontology (average rating 8.4 versus 5.2, p < 0.05). We attributed the difference to a more implicit than explicit use of homeostasis in the social sciences. Complexity was moderately helpful in understanding both biomedical (7.0) and psychosocial (7.3) issues, but more helpful in understanding their interactions (7.9), albeit differences between these means were not significant. The subjective evaluation by third-year students indicated that homeostasis and complexity were helpful in their gerontological education, and complexity, in particular, played a role in developing their research projects. In summary, results of this study indicate that homeostasis and complexity can be useful integrating tools in gerontological education with the stipulation that care must be taken with homeostasis to point out its applicability to psychosocial issues of aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-680
Number of pages12
JournalEducational Gerontology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001


Dive into the research topics of 'Homeostasis and complexity as integrating tools in gerontological education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this