Many issues are involved in working with elderly people, and social workers must understand the aging process in order to be effective. Social workers can be seen working with elderly people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices retirement communities, family service agencies, state departments of aging, area agencies on aging, and other related public and private entities.
The social work profession has a long history of supporting and serving the needs of older adults and their families. The rapid increase in the number of older adults in this country has led to a rising interest in social work practice with this population.
Social workers address the important and varied needs of our nation's older population unlike any other profession. Because there is great range among older adults and because of their increasing numbers the settings in which social workers practice and the roles they play will continue to develop and expand. Social workers in this growning area of practice have become increasingly present in a wider array of settings, including those in the public sector, non-profit, and for-profit organizations. NASW and its leadership are committed to having an impact on professional development, policy, and advocacy efforts in this expanding area of practice.
In 1900, three million Americans, or 4.1% of the population, were age 65 or older, in 1990, the number had rose extremely to 31.6 million, or 11.3% of the total population. By 2010 it is expected to increase by 76% (What social workers do 207).
Epidemiological research in populations 65 and over has found that 12.3 percent have mental health problems requiring intervention and treatment. Depression is the most common mental illness among the elderly. Race and ethnic differences in rates of cognitive injury among persons 55 and older are similar to rates in all adult populations, with older African Americans manifesting higher rates of cognitive impairment than whites and Hispanics....