Gerontological Social Workers address the biopsychosocial needs of elderly clients and their families.
This includes helping elderly individuals and their families to connect with resources within their community, coordinate care and access, assess functional capacity, examine needs, balance finances, and so much more.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this field of social work to grow by 25% between 2010 and 2020.
More specifically, Gerontological Social Work will expand the most within the healthcare arena. This is most likely due to the aging population of the huge Baby Boomer generation.
The primary goal of a Gerontological Social Worker is to promote the independence, autonomy, and dignity of their clients throughout the aging process.
On both the micro and macro levels, these social workers must address the unique challenges that elderly individuals face and must be knowledgeable of relevant legislation, policies, and social programs that affect the elderly.
Although everyone ages, not everyone ages equally.
• People at age 50 with less than a high school education have similar health to people at age 60 who hold college degrees.
• White elderly individuals report having “very good” or “excellent” health almost twice as often as Black and Hispanic elders do.
• 1 in 8 Blacks and 1 in 4 Hispanics within the elderly population do not have private healthcare coverage, compared to only 1 in 14 Whites. Hispanics are the most likely group to not have at least one visit with a physician during a 2-year span.
As individuals age, cognitive functioning and health naturally declines as well.
Of people 70 years and older, nearly 10% live with moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Approximately 50% of individuals aged 70 or over living in institutions have moderate to severe cognitive impairment.
However, caring for elderly individuals with cognitive impairments is an extremely expensive burden.
As a nation, the US has spent approximately $18 billion total on care for elderly adults with cognitive impairments. On average, it costs individuals about $18,000 annually to care for an elderly person with dementia.
The risk of depression increases with age, but depression is treatable and is not a “normal” part of aging.
Of people ages 84 and younger about 15% suffer from depression, compared to nearly 20% of individuals ages 85 and older. Depression is more common among people who have another illness, especially an illness that limits their functioning or is chronic.
Depression is often under-treated among the elderly, because many assume it is a “natural reaction” to illnesses or life changes. Many older individuals hold this belief and consequently do not seek or accept help/treatment.