It’s no secret that the demographic makeup of the U.S. population is shifting. Aging experts say that by the year 2030, for the first time in our nation’s history, adults over the age of 65 will outnumber the younger generation. Estimates believe the number of seniors will climb to almost 70 million.
From greater demands on our health care system to an increased need for safer senior-friendly housing options, the greying of America is creating new and unique challenges. Among them is the need for senior social workers to help Baby Boomers stay safe and healthy in later life.
Senior social workers, also known as geriatric social workers, focus exclusively on working with the unique challenges older adults face. The social worker’s overall goal is to help seniors’ improve their quality of life by overcoming or reducing the impact of aging-related issues.
What is the Role of a Senior Social Worker?
Many of us associate social workers with the task of helping in cases of abuse. While that is an important role for many of them, senior social workers do more than support victims of elder abuse. They can also assist older adults and their families who need advice and guidance with tasks such as:
- Locating senior care resources ranging from adult day services to in-home care and nursing homes
- Finding transportation providers to take seniors to and from necessary errands and appointments
- Training family members to play an active role in a senior loved one’s caregiving
- Arranging for supportive services such as mobile meals or senior nutrition deliveries
- Helping connect older adults with senior-friendly local services such as pharmacies who make home deliveries or service organizations who have volunteers willing to provide companionship to homebound seniors
- Conducting workshops on important elder care trends and issues of concern, such as identity theft or how to interview potential home care aides
Geriatric Social Worker Specializations
Senior social workers may choose to specialize in one area of this growing industry. It could be:
- Hospice and palliative care for seniors with chronic health problems or life-limiting illnesses
- Long-term care to support older adults who live in nursing homes
- Direct intervention to help connect seniors who live in a private home with various agencies and their services
- To identify potential victims of elder abuse and work with social service agencies to create a safer environment for the victim
- Family mediation to help seniors and their families work through difficult topics and decisions related to aging and aging issues
- Elder care and senior care research to discover new and better ways to help older adults age with dignity
Training to Become a Senior Social Worker
In most instances, geriatric social workers need to have at least a Bachelor’s of Science in Gerontology. As the needs of the older population have become increasingly more complex, a growing number of employers are looking for candidates with a Master’s degree in Gerontology to fill open positions.
Resources to Learn More about Senior Social Workers
Here are a few resources to help you learn more about the field of geriatric social work: