Developing and Sustaining Gerontology Emphasis in a Social Work Program

By Adrian Kok.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

An estimated 20 percent of the world’s population will be 60 years or older by the year 2030. In the United States, the demographics are accelerated. Older adults will be the largest growing population by 2030 as more than 20 percent of the population in the United States will be older than 65 (Administration on Aging, 2000). While the population within the United States is estimated to increase by 49% from now till 2050, the percentage of older adults are projected to increase by 147% during the same period (US Census Bureau, 2005). The lifespan of older adults is likely to increase with improvements in technology and continuing medical advances. The National Institute of Aging estimates America will require 70,000 trained professional social workers by 2020 which represents a 43% increase over the current social work labor force. Fewer than 3% of social work students specialize in gerontology.

To address the shortage of social workers, the John Hartford Foundation invested over $40 million to create a multifaceted education initiative to strengthen the capacity of schools of social work to train future generations of social workers. The Hartford Program Partnership in Aging Education and the Curriculum Development Institutes were two of the many innovative programs created to enhance the gerontology emphasis in accredited social work programs and train future social workers to meet the needs of the aging population. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the initiative was implemented in a social work program and to describe the efforts at sustaining the initiative through involvement of faculty, students, and mentors of the program. Social sustainability will be discussed in terms of enriching classroom learning experiences through infusion of gerontology content, involvement of community partners, sustaining stakeholders’ interests, development of leadership skills, recognition of community partner efforts, evaluation of the program, and the enhanced visibility of this initiative among students, faculty, and the community. Economic sustainability is addressed by increasing financial support by foundations, recruitment of new community partners, and marketing the internship program to future students and community partners. A conceptual model is developed from the systems theory to explain the mechanisms for sustaining gerontology emphasis in social work programs in the United States.

Keywords: Gerontology, Education, Learning, Internship, Baby Boomers, Training, Social Service, Vocational Guidance, Social Work, Internships

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.213-228. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.400MB).

Dr. Adrian Kok

Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work, Dominican University, River Forest, IL, USA

Dr. Adrian Kok is an Associate Professor from the Graduate School of Social Work, Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. He obtained his Ph.D from the School of Social Work at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. His current research is focused on community informatics, the use of technology by older adults, and the effects of infusing the curriculum with gerontology. Dr. Adrian Kok was recently awarded a grant by John A. Hartford Foundation and the Social Work Leadership Institute to implement a rotational model of internship for social work students. He has been appointed by the National Center of Gerontological Education as a national mentor to assist with infusion of gerontology in accredited social work programs.


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