New Special Projects Focus on Social Workers, Volunteers

By Cavanaugh, Gloria | Aging Today, November/December 2002 | Go to article overview
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New Special Projects Focus on Social Workers, Volunteers

Cavanaugh, Gloria, Aging Today

In the last issue of Aging Today, I took the opportunity to keep readers up to date on several special projects at the American Society on Aging (ASA). Although our publications and educational programs may be the first things that come to mind when professionals in aging think of ASA, the organization is also involved in numerous projects that provide informational resources to its members and serve to advance the skills of people working in the field.

In this column I'm pleased to report on two new projects that ASA is undertaking. The first is a partnership with Boston University's School of Social Work to launch the Institute for Geriatric Social Work. The second is a new partnership with the Corporation for National Service's Senior Corp.


The profession of social work is at the forefront of those facing the challenges of an aging society and is in a special position to respond, as well-both to meet immediate needs and also to establish a higher standard of care for the future. However, practicing social workers in large part lack formal training in the skills and knowledge needed to provide care to older adults.

All social workers-even those who do not currently work with older adults-are or will likely be affected by issues of aging in the course of their practice. Social workers will require background knowledge and practical training in these issues whether they work with low-income children and families, with the homeless, in management or clinical positions, in private practice or with those who are chronically or persistently mentally ill.

To develop sufficient numbers of social workers with the skills and knowledge required to serve the aging U.S. population, three major issues must be addressed:

The need to provide training in gerontology to current social workers, who increasingly are working with older adults but lack formal training or skills in the field of aging.

* The need for solid empirical evidence of the effectiveness of geriatric social work practice and interventions.

* The need for federal reimbursement through Medicare or Medicaid for geriatric social work practice.

To address these issues, The Atlantic Philanthropies recently funded the establishment of a new Institute for Geriatric Social Work at Boston University's School of Social Work. In October, ASA staff began work with the university's team on one component of this institute-developing and directing focused, short-term education and training efforts for social workers who are working with older adults but lack formal instruction in gerontology. Through a variety of distance-learning approaches, as well as through face-to-face and onsite training, the program will be offering a wide variety of courses designed to raise practicing social workers' knowledge and skills of gerontological issues.

ASA members can become involved in many ways, first and foremost by helping us reach social workers in their agencies or agencies they work with who are in need of such training. ASA will be offering a greatly expanded range of low-- cost Web seminars and online self-study short courses covering many key issues in gerontological social work.

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New Special Projects Focus on Social Workers, Volunteers


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