Social Work in Aging-Diverse Opportunities for Learning

Graduates of the Internships in Aging Project – a part of the MSW program at UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare - found that working with older adults and their families can be as diverse and varied as the older population itself! Learning about the many ways that social workers can affect change with this population helped these students to find their career paths in aging services.

Students spent the second year of their MSW program as part of the Internships in Aging Project (IAP) program which provides a strong educational and internship experience that prepares students for careers in aging. A scholarship that each IAP student receives attracts them to a career in aging and also allows the students to spend extra time at their internship sites.

The program addresses the shortage of social workers trained to work with the growing aging population. Persons 65 years or older numbered 46.2 million in 2014 - about one in every seven Americans. By 2060, there will be about 98 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2014. As a result the need for specialized health, mental health and social services for older people and their families will increase dramatically. New solutions for care are needed. Social workers play a key role in providing front-line services. The U.S. will require 70,000 social workers who specialize in aging by 2020, a 43% increase from 1987.

The Class of 2017 had field internships that exposed them to a wide range of services for seniors. Some interned in agencies one would typically think of when wishing to help older adults such St. Peter’s Hospital and the Albany VA Hospital. Students learned about healthcare, case management, end of life care as well as behavioral health. Another “typical” setting would be residential programs such as The Eddy Village Green at Beverwyck or the Massry Assisted Living where students learned about family issues, grief/loss, and end of life. Other students learned about aging at less traditional aging 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. Several of our students 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. A MACRO student worked on the policy and administrative side of these services through the Department of Health. Students interned at the NYS Office for Aging and the NYS Office for Mental Health to learn how to support government and grant programs at the administrative and legislative levels Learning opportunities are both traditional, innovative and at multiple levels of service. Through the Internships in Aging Project, students learn about the incredible variety of work that social workers can do while developing a professional niche and addressing the needs of the aging population.