Social workers interested in working with older adults can fulfill a significant need in our society today. With the huge numbers of adults approaching retirement, there will soon be an influx of people over the age of 65 who will require additional services. Gerontology social workers have a wide range of job responsibilities, depending on the role and job they fill. These include assisted living facilities, elder abuse programs, nursing homes, senior centers, or senior housing facilities.
In these types of programs, social workers assist older adults with acquiring additional services such as financial support or ways to engage in activities during the daytime. Social workers may also work with the families of older adults in these programs to provide education about various issues affecting seniors as well as work with families to overcome barriers common for families caring for older adults.
Mental health issues are common in elderly people, particularly anxiety and depression, and social workers may be able to treat these problems through individual or group therapy. Older adults face many unique issues such as loneliness, the loss of a spouse or partner, the feeling that they are useless following retirement, financial difficulties, and the reality of sickness and impending death.
Specially-trained gerontology social workers can work with older adults dealing with these issues to help them become fulfilled and productive adults. Gerontology social workers are oftentimes also employed in psychiatric hospitals, where older adults are separated from older populations due to their unique needs and often fragile physical conditions. Addictions specialists may also find that they serve a unique need for the elderly population, as substance use is more common than previously thought in the geriatric population due to loneliness, grief, and life stressors. Social work programs have course selections in working with the elderly and this is an important area of concern in states such as Florida.
Gerontology social workers are also in high demand at settings such as hospitals and hospice centers, simply because of the high rate of illnesses in the elderly population. These social workers may be responsible for counseling family members as well as the patient surrounding illness and end-of-life issues. The responsibilities in hospitals and hospice social workers also include connecting older adults with appropriate services in the community following discharge from the facility, and ensuring that someone is following up with the patient’s medical care in the future.
Don’t rule out that many elderly people are able to do more than they think. For instance, here is an 82 year old woman doing some yoga. She didn’t think she could do it anymore, but with some encouragement was able to try:
Always encourage someone to reach their highest abilities.
Options For Gerontology Social Workers
Gerontology social workers can obtain numerous other positions in the field as well. Retirement planners help older adults organize priorities and use their financial, physical, and emotional resources effectively during retirement. Social workers interested in the policy field can use their training to advocate on a legislative level for policies that would benefit older adults. Finally, gerontology social workers can work for outreach programs, trying to reach older adults that may need additional support yet are not able to find it on their own.