Byline: Nancy Morrow-Howell
Today we are delighted to highlight the Brown School’s work with older adults and aging societies, and we’d like to share a little bit about our new specialization! We believe that all social work and public health students would be well served by learning about older adults and aging society, given current longevity and demographic trends. The Older Adults and Aging Societies specialization gives students across all the concentrations tools to serve clients, families and communities across the longer life course. The specialization provides students with expertise in working with older adults, their families and the service delivery systems for aging societies. It also prepares students to develop policy and program strategies to address the challenges and opportunities of population aging.
We take seriously that age and aging are essential parts of human identity and that resisting ageism and promoting wellness throughout the life course are essential parts of anti-oppressive social work practice. We hope to increase awareness that age intersects with all other identities and increases risk for discrimination and negative well-being outcomes. Age discrimination threatens social justice for everyone who lives long enough.
We have three courses that cover a wide range of topics and practice-related skills:
- Interpersonal Work with Older Adults and Their Families introduces and develops multiple therapeutic modalities and skills, emphasizing attunement and relationship building from holistic and intersectional perspectives.
- Social Policies, Services and Programs in Aging provides an overview of major policies and programs including income security, employment, health, and other concerns of older adults and their families in the United States in a comparative and critical framework
- Contemporary Perspectives in Aging introduces a wide range of critical topics regarding older people, families, communities and societies. Further, theories and perspectives from multiple disciplines are considered.
Students have a wide range of practicum opportunities and work in many domains of social welfare after graduation. Areas of includes community and housing organizations, granting organizations, and service providers and advocacy organizations in disability and behavioral health. Opportunities to work with older adults and their families exists in many practicum sites including The Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, City of St. Louis Department of Human Services, Association on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, Barnes Jewish Hospital, Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis, Better Family Life, and Bilingual International Assistant Services.
Given the shifting demographics, there is a demand for knowledge and skills specific to older adults, later life, and aging societies. In all arenas of practice, students with this specialization are highly valued by organizations. Graduating students are employed in both the public and private sectors, nationally and internationally. Some directly serve older adults and their families in traditional settings such as care management programs, hospitals, home health and hospice agencies, and behavioral health organizations. Others work in public agencies at the local, state and federal levels, overseeing home- and community-based service programs and engaging in policy advocacy. Several graduates have taken positions in national nonprofit organizations, and many have gone on to doctoral work. Brown School Career Services tell us that there is a growing need in hospice services nationally and going the route of licensure can prove valuable as there is a shortage in the field. The skills gained in this specialization are highly sought after in all professional industries.
Jesse Herman came to the Brown School for his MSW after his career in the military. He took courses in aging and now his career in the VA medical system is greatly enhanced by this expertise. His colleagues in health care turn to him for knowledge about resources for older adults as well as his expertise in interacting with older patients and their families.
Jay Kayser specialized in aging while at the Brown School, and he found this expertise invaluable in his career in the Emergency Department at Barnes Hospital. Jay is now a doctoral student at the University of Michigan.
Jisun Shon concentrated in Social and Economic Development while at Brown and is now the executive director of community service organization serving older adults, with a specific mission to serve the Korean community in Chicago.
We all know that life expectancy has more the doubled in the last century; and we are beginning to understand how demographic shifts are affecting all aspects of life. Our interpersonal relationships, our service organizations and policies, our community infrastructure, our expectations and norms about the life course — all are changing as people live into their 8th and 9th decade of life and fewer children are being born. Outdated attitudes and practices limit the potential of the extension of human life; and social work and public health professionals play in role in social transformations to ensure quality of life for people of all ages.