The connection between social work and baby boomers is clear: as this population ages, their need for social services and support grows. The professionals trained to assist and support this aging population are called geriatric social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) estimates that as many as 70,000 geriatric social workers will be needed to support the baby boomer generation as they reach their later years.
There are several factors leading to this surge in demand:
- The size of the baby boomer generation: Over 70 million people were born in the U.S. from 1946-1964.1
- Improved health and life expectancy: Advances in healthcare have increased life expectancy rates. This means that there will be a greater need for geriatric care coordination among social workers and other human service professionals.
- Increased healthcare and social service options: A vast network of services, insurance options, and care settings are available to older adults. Social workers are needed to help clients and their families navigate this complex system.
Gerontology in the social work field
Many social positions in the field of aging require a master’s degree in social work (MSW). MSW programs often have coursework that addresses the specific needs of older adults, and fieldwork may give students an additional opportunity to gain exposure to gerontology. If you are interested in working with the elderly, it’s important to seek an MSW program that offers you the flexibility to suggest field placement opportunities that align with your goals. For geriatric social work, these placements could include senior care facilities, hospitals, or social service agencies. The Catholic University of America’s online MSW program welcomes student input during the field placement process and also offers coursework in social work practice with adults.
Social work and baby boomers: Specific needs
MSW graduates who desire to support baby boomers may choose a career in medical social work, geriatrics, or community-based service. In the medical realm, social workers help clients to obtain insurance benefits, find transportation to doctor’s appointments, and navigate the emotional realm of dealing with illness. In geriatric settings, social workers work with clients and their families to coordinate end-of-life planning and care. This might include assisting individuals with legal preparations, equipping families with grief coping skills, and ensuring that care facilities are providing supportive, healthy environments for their residents. Finally, community-based social workers ensure that seniors are utilizing available assistance programs, so that aging residents’ physical, emotional, and mental health needs are met. In each field of practice, social workers join with a variety of care professionals to address the holistic well-being of elderly individuals and their families.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can support aging populations, request information about The Catholic University of America’s online MSW program or call 855-295-5711.