Need for geriatric social work grows

Feb 4, 2014

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

About 10,000 baby boomers in the United States will turn 65 every day until the year 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2020, one in six Americans is projected to be age 65 and older.

That means up to 70,000 geriatric social workers will be needed to help address the aging needs of baby boomers.

Among their many roles, social workers are an important part in helping family caregivers of older adults navigate through health and mental health networks, according to the NASW Standards for Social Work Practice with Family Caregivers of Older Adults. It notes that social workers are well-positioned in helping older adults by using a strengths-based, person-in-environment approach.

The good news is there are efforts taking place to meet the anticipated demands of tomorrow’s aging workforce.

Geriatric Social Work Initiative

One example is the Geriatric Social Work Initiative, which has been funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation since 1999.

The initiative created the Council on Social Work Education’s National Center for Gerontology Social Work Education, or Gero-Ed Center. It promotes gerontology competencies in baccalaureate and master’s level social work programs nationwide to prepare students to enhance the health and well-being of older adults and their families.

Nancy Hooyman is the Hooyman Endowed Professor of Gerontology at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington. She, along with Darla Spence Coffey, president and CEO of CSWE, are the principal investigators for the Gero-Ed project.

Hooyman noted the Gero-Ed has worked with more than 400 social work programs throughout the country to infuse gerontology competencies and content either in their required generalist curriculum or specialized curriculum.

The initiative is making an impact, Hooyman said, noting that more than 75 percent of social workers end up working with older adults and their families in some capacity, even though they may think they will never do so.

“It is important that every graduate have a generalist level of competencies to work with older adults,” she said.

The overall impression of the curricular program has so far involved more than 1,000 faculty and an estimated 10,000 students. Of that number, 71 percent of students interacted with at least one older adult by the time they graduated. Faculty respondents said nearly 50 percent of graduates were prepared to work with older adults and families.

From the February 2014 NASW News. NASW members can view the full story after logging in.