The impetus for the initiative was twofold. One, demographic data indicate that the population of older adults will increase
significantly over the next ten years. And, the number of persons, in the older age categories (75+ and 85+), are increasing
dramatically. Two, as the aging population increases, the demand for professionals with competencies to work with older adults
exceeds the capacity and interest of those in the helping fields. This shortage is even more pronounced in the profession
of social work and is well documented by Damron-Rodriquez and Lubben (1997). They report only 10 percent of all social work
students take a gerontology course and three-fourths of all MSW programs have no faculty identified with aging. This shortage
of "gerontology competent" social workers as well as the inadequate attention and resources within social work higher
education related to older adults is being addressed by social work programs across the United States through the Geriatric
Social Work Initiative.
The Geriatric Social Work Initiative is funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation. It is important to acknowledge Laura
Robbins who was the foundation's Senior Program Officer and the great champion for social work higher education and the Geriatric
Social Work Initiative. Her tenacity and commitment to older adults led to a comprehensive and proactive approach to preparing
social workers for an aging population. The Geriatric Social Work Initiative included the following - Faculty Scholars Program,
Doctoral Fellow Program, Practicum Partnership Program, Faculty Development Program, and Geriatric Enrichment Program.
The Geriatric Enrichment Program and the Faculty Development Program have had the most significant impact on undergraduate
social work education. The Geriatric Enrichment Program funded 67 social work programs across the United States with approximately
36 undergraduate social work programs receiving $60,000 each to transform their curricula. The goal was to assure that all
social work graduates regardless of their chosen field of practice were knowledgeable about the aging population and possessed
the minimum competencies for working effectively with older adults. Thus, the focus was on the transformation of the curricula
to include adequate content on older adults. Although the funding for the Geriatric Enrichment Program ends June 30, 2004,
the transformed curricula and the curricular revision processes have been institutionalized and will be sustained.
The Faculty Development Program provided another opportunity for undergraduate social work faculty to develop and hone
their teaching competencies related to older adults. The faculty development institutes assisted with teaching resource materials,
teaching strategies, and networking and collaborating opportunities among participants.
Both of these programs have assisted undergraduate social work programs to stay current with the aging population and
to prepare "aging-savvy social workers". This issue of Pedagogy highlights the Geriatric Social Work Initiative
and the achievements of undergraduate social work programs.
Anita Curry-Jackson, Ph.D. President,
Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors
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