PhD in Gerontology

The PhD in Gerontology program at Simon Fraser University provides advanced research training in gerontology grounded in an interdisciplinary theoretical foundation, current and prospective substantive issues, a range of research methods and statistical techniques, and knowledge to translate research into practice and policy.

The Department of Gerontology has a synergistic relationship with the Gerontology Research Centre that provides students with an enriched educational and training experience, as well as opportunities to apply their skills in an intellectually stimulating research environment.

Admission Requirements

Admission requires a Masters degree in Gerontology or other discipline in which a significant amount of coursework and/or thesis/project research deals with aging or the aged.  Students will be evaluated on an individual basis. Those not meeting these requirements need to take preparatory coursework equivalent to a Masters in Gerontology or Aging Studies.

Candidates must have a minimum 3.5 GPA. There must be supervisory capacity in the department to support the candidate’s research. Students must also meet University requirements for a doctoral level program, as per Graduate General Regulations 1.3.4.

Program Requirements

This program consists of three core courses, two electives, comprehensive examinations and a thesis. Students may be required to complete up to two additional courses if deemed necessary by the admissions committee. Students may substitute up to three courses from other programs with departmental approval. Students may also complete one directed studies (GERO 889).

Required Courses

  • GERO 803-4 Analytical Techniques for Gerontological Research
  • GERO 804-4 Advanced Qualitative Methods in Gerontology
  • GERO 806-4 Interdisciplinary Theories in Gerontology

Students who have completed equivalent courses in their graduate degree, may be permitted to substitute these courses with electives.

The following elective courses are organized into two categories with a few courses applying to both categories:

Elective Courses

Environment and Aging 

  • GERO 810-4: Community Based Housing for Older People 
  • GERO 811-4: Institutional Living Environments 
  • GERO 822-4: Families, Communities, and Health (can be used for either concentration) 
  • GERO 830-4: Human factors, Technology, and Safety 
  • GERO 840-4: Special Topics

Health and Aging

  • GERO 802-4: Development and Evaluation of Health Promotion Programs for the Elderly 
  • GERO 820-4: Principles and Practices of Health Promotion/Population Health
  • GERO 822-4: Families, Communities and Health 
  • GERO 823-4: Mental Health and Illness in Later Life 
  • GERO 840-4: Special Topics


Comprehensive Examinations

After completion of all coursework, students will write two comprehensive examinations based on reading lists developed with their supervisory committee. 

Thesis Proposal // Thesis Defense

When both comprehensive examinations are satisfactorily completed, the student must develop and successfully defend a thesis prospectus before being officially admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree.

For a full description of the program requirements please visit the SFU Academic Calendar.


Application Process

Application Deadlines

  • January 1st to February 28th for September admission
  • September 1st to 30th for January admission

NOTE: Within reason, an extension to these deadlines may be requested by emailing Please provide your current SFU student ID or GA#, if you are new to SFU, and your reason for requesting the extension.


Applicants will upload all their post-secondary transcripts as part of the online process. However, "Official" transcripts must also be received by the Department of Gerontology Graduate Program Assistant directly from each issuing institution. 


Three academic references are required. Referees should address the applicant’s ability to undertake advanced work in the area of interest. Non-academic references should address the candidate’s academic potential. Referees should be told that the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act allows an applicant access to the information in the letters.

Statement of Research Interest

All applicants are required to submit a Statement of Research Interest. It is important for applicants to write a clear and detailed research statement in order for proper assessment by the admissions committee. A research statement should provide a clear articulation of the PhD dissertation’s substantive focus, justification and possible research methods. It is important to contextualize and ground the above in relevant literature. The Statement should be approximately 1200 words in length. Please contact the department for a sample at (778) 782-5047 or via e-mail at

Writing Samples

Copies of up to three published articles may be submitted for consideration by the Admissions Committee. Writing samples should be submitted directly to the Department of Gerontology office.

Supervisor Pre-Selection

Applicants MUST identify a senior supervisor from within the Department of Gerontology based on compatability of research interests. Applicants are expected to contact their selected supervisor/s in order to discuss their research interest prior to submission of the application. The list of faculty members and their research areas can be found here

English Language Competence

An applicant whose primary language is not English or whose previous education has been conducted in another language must demonstrate command of English sufficient to pursue graduate studies in the chosen field. See Graduate General Regulations 1.13.12 for detailed requirements.  

List of Documents to be Uploaded

  • Three Letters of Reference
  • Statement of Work / Volunteer Experience in Gerontology
  • CV including scholarly work
  • Statement of Research Interest
  • Unofficial transcripts from all post secondary institutions (see above)
  • Writing Samples (up to three)

Graduate Entrance Scholarships

Graduate Entrance Scholarships are available by Departmental nomination only. No application is required.



There are a variety of funding opportunities for students in the Gerontology PhD program - some are department specific and some are available to all students. Though our department is small relative to others in the university, most of our PhD students have received prestigious awards such as the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship.

If you are a Gerontology graduate student you must maintain full-time graduate registration (i.e., registration in a minimum of 2 courses or registration in GERO 898 or 899). Candidates must have a minimum CGPA of 3.0 to be considered for awards or bursaries and a minimum GPA of 3.5 to be considered for scholarships and fellowshipsFull Terms of Reference

Application for ALL awards (unless noted otherwise) is made via the online graduate awards application system (GA3).

Awards with a September 30 deadline

Graduate Fellowships

  • Value: Full $6,250; Half $3,250
  • Terms of Reference: To be eligible to apply for a Graduate Fellowship (GF), a student must be registered as a full-time, regular (not "on-leave") student in a Master’s or Doctoral program. Eligible students must normally have a minimum 3.5 cgpa during the last year of full-time study.


BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, Geriatric Nursing/Gerontology Bursary

  • Value: $2,000
  • Terms of Reference: This bursary is based on financial need. You must reside in British Columbia or the Yukon and be a Canadian citizen. Bursaries are awarded to Gerontology graduate students attending on a full time basis for two consecutive semesters.
  • Application Form: Royal Cnd Legion Bursary.pdf

Other Funding Sources for Gerontology Graduate Students

TA/TM Positions

Three to four teaching assistant/ tutor marker positions are available each year and Gerontology students get priority. See Teaching Assistant and Tutor Marker positions . These positions are also circulated via email to the student list.

Research Assistant Positions

Gerontology faculty have a number of ongoing research grants and regularly hire graduate students as Research Assistants.  Students enrolled in the program should speak directly to their senior supervisors and other faculty for details.

Awards with a May 30 deadline

Graduate Fellowships

  • Value: Full $6,250; Half $3,250
  • Terms of Reference: To be eligible to apply for a Graduate Fellowship (GF), a student must be registered as a full-time, regular (not "on-leave") student in a Master’s or Doctoral program. Eligible students must normally have a minimum 3.5 cgpa during the last year of full-time study.

Al Eisenring Memorial Endowment Fund

  • Value: $1000
  • Terms of reference: This fund provides an annual award to an undergraduate mature student OR a graduate student whose research is in the area of Gerontology.This award is open to both diploma and minor students. Undergraduate students must be registered in 9 credit hours or more.

The G.A.B.C. Chuck Bayley Memorial Award

  • Value: 1 award @ $2,000 or 2 awards @ $1000 each
  • Terms of reference: Annual award to a graduate student, full- or part-time, who has through volunteer or paid work experience, demonstrated an aptitude or an interest in the field of gerontology.

The Gloria Gutman Conference Travel Award

  • Value: $850
  • Terms of reference: The Gloria Gutman Endowment Conference Travel Award is to provide financial support for a student in a graduate program in the Department of Gerontology to help with the costs associated with participating in an academic conference. Students will be evaluated based on their previous annual progress as determined by the Department of Gerontology's Graduate Program Committee and by nomination by the Committee to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Lillian Zimmerman Graduate Scholarship in Gerontology – ENTERING

  • Value: $500
  • Terms of reference: This scholarship is to provide financial support to a Gerontology graduate student in his/her first year of study based on academic merit and a record of public service contributions whose research focuses on the family and aging, gender, ethnicity, population aging, health and/or social policy.

Mark Nussbaum Graduate Research Fellowships in Gerontology

  • Value: 1 x $5000 or 2 x $2,500
  • Terms of reference: Students must be registered full time in either the PhD or MA in Gerontology and have completed their research proposal. Preference will be given to research that addresses topics in technology and the built environment and aging. Students must have demonstrated excellent intellectual ability, originality and ability in research.

Graduate Advisor 

Roslyn McKoen
HC 2800

Drop-In Advising Hours

To be posted! 

Talk to Ros about course selection, program planning and any questions or issues you have regarding your Gerontology classes.