Social Work and the Aging Population

Sara blog2013 picBy Sara

America, the time has come! Baby Boomers are getting older and preparing for retirement. It is hard to imagine an enormous group of babies born in the late 40’s to the early 60’s growing up and getting old. Now that it is here, the need for gerontology workers is huge. Gerontology social workers help by improving the quality of life for older adults. Jobs in this field have no prospect of slowing down any time soon. With that said, it is surprising to find that this is not a branch of social work that people easily jump to. Yes, working with the older population is not glamorous, but before you declare you have no interest in working with the elderly, there are a few things that should be considered first.

There is a strong negative stigma attached to the aged that is a result of our fear of getting older (which involves wrinkles, loss of strength, diseases, gray hairs, and “losing our minds”). Older adults are laughed at, chastised, and oftentimes ignored. This is, unfortunately, common behavior and widely accepted. I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed an adult child brush off everything their elderly mother or father says with “They don’t know what they are talking about.” I think most people would be surprised to find that older individuals are, in fact, very normal. They act, talk, think, and feel just like you and I. If there were more social workers in gerontology, we could work together to dispel the negative stereotypes and hopefully see some improvement in how they are treated by family members and communities.

Aging is a different process for everyone, and no one knows what it is like until it happens. This is why working with aging individuals is important, because everyone needs a little guidance when they reach this stage of life. This is also why gerontology will never get old or boring: no situation is identical to another. The GCSW makes it interesting as well. The college offers classes like Spirituality and Ageing, Clinical Social Work with Elders, Crisis Intervention, and Grief and Bereavement. With a specialization in Gerontology, the college provides access to gerontology experts and prepares students to help elders effectively.

Working with the older adult population is extremely rewarding. There is something about helping people live independently, happily, and actively that puts a smile on my face. Usually, this is what older adults are seeking: someone that is smiling, listening, and helping. If you can do these things, then maybe gerontology is the right path for you, too. If you are still undecided, or want to try it out before you make a commitment, GCSW can help you find a field placement directly working with the elderly community. Also, the GCSW offers an AGIFT Fellowship, which is financial assistance offered to students who specialize and work in specific field agencies geared toward the gerontology perspective. The AGIFT Fellowship is a great opportunity for students with an interest in geriatrics and seeking a geriatric field placement.

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