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Support for Seniors

Internship Program in Aging helps Social Work Students Find their Niche

The IAP class of 2017 are, left to right, Program Coordinator Linda Mertz, Project Director Ricky Fortune, and students Rowland, Michael Starr, Renee LaFreniere, Brittni Switser, Aerial Ramey, Zachary O’Farrell, Kristen Lancto, Scott Heider, Katie Chen, Heidi Parker, Nicole Taormina, Stephanie Truesdell and Morgan Skrabalak.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 5, 2017) — In 2014, there were about 46 million people 65 and older in the United States, about 15 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to 74 million – or 21 percent of the total U.S. population.

And as the population ages, the need for specialized health, mental health and social service providers will continue to increase. Social workers play a key role in providing front-line services, and those who specialize in care for the aging are increasingly in demand.

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Two IAP students, Brittni Switser and Gwen Rowland, at the Alzheimer’s walk last fall.

UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare’s Internship in Aging Program (IAP) is addressing that need. Some 13 MSW students graduated this spring from the program, which combines strong educational and internship experiences to prepare students for careers in aging.

The students spent the second year of their MSW program in IAP, working in the field for a total of 24 hours a week. That’s a day more than the typical 16 hours a week other MSW students spend in their internship programs, and the IAP students are supported by scholarships designed to attract students to careers in aging and to support the extra time at their internship sites.

IAP Program Coordinator Linda Mertz said the program addresses the shortage of social workers trained to work with the growing aging population.

Geriatric social workers make up about 5 percent of the half-million social workers in the United States, according to the National Association of Social Workers. By 2020, there will be a need for some 70,000 social workers who specialize in aging, the National Institute of Aging predicts.

The class of 2017 did field internships exposing them to a wide range of services for seniors. At sites including St. Peter’s Hospital and the Albany VA Hospital, students learned about healthcare, case management, end of life care as well as behavioral health. At residential settings such as The Eddy Village Green at Beverwyck or the Massry Assisted Living, the interns learned about family issues, grief and loss, and end of life.

Other students learned about aging at less traditional settings. Several students focused on mental health and interned on an inpatient hospitalization program at Samaritan Hospital or a clinic at Greene County Mental Health. Others participated in innovative state-funded programs to serve older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and their care-partners. The students who focused on clinical practice interned at the Eddy Alzheimer’s Service and the Alzheimer’s Association, working directly with families to educate, support and assist with case management.

Students also focused on policy and administrative side of services through the state Department of Health, the Office for Aging, and the Office for Mental Health, learning how to support government and grant programs at the administrative and legislative levels.

IAP has been a part of the School of Social Welfare for 17 years. Scholarships to provide stipends for students in the program come from a variety of sources each year. Support for the 2017 graduates came from the Veterans Administration; the New York State Department of Health, Office For the Aging and Office of Mental Health; Eddy Alzheimer’s Services; the William Randolph Hearst Scholarship; the Graduate Student Award in Gerontology; the Susan R. Sherman Endowed Scholarship; IAP Alumni Endowed Scholarship; The Doug McCuen Scholarship; and the Henry and Patricia Binzer Scholarship.

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