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Geriatric Social Workers Help Make the Golden Years Shine

Geriatric Social Workers Help Make the Golden Years Shine

Cindy Mehallow, Monster Contributing Writer

For geriatric social workers, helping seniors navigate the perils of aging and maximize their quality of life provides deep satisfaction. Through direct counseling or by marshalling resources, these professionals empower the growing ranks of older Americans to live their later years to the fullest.

“Because of changing demographics and the booming older population, [geriatric] social work is one of the fastest-growing areas in social work,” says Marla Berg-Weger, MSW, PhD, professor at the Saint Louis University School of Social Work.

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Salary: $32,590 - $48,420
Min. Education: Master's
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By 2010, the nation will need 60,000 to 70,000 social workers to serve this group, according to National Institute on Aging data reported in “A Blueprint for the New Millennium,” a 2001 report by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Opportunities in Many Settings

Geriatric social workers advise the elderly and their families about housing, transportation, long-term care and available support services. They also often run support groups for family caregivers.

While geriatric social workers are commonly employed in such settings as hospitals, nursing homes, adult day-care centers, senior centers and assisted-living centers, career opportunities are emerging in nontraditional settings as well. These include employee assistance programs, bank trust departments, law firms and insurance companies.

Other career paths include working with the courts in the area of adult protective services and for advocacy groups such as AARP chapters, the Gray Panthers and the Older Women’s League. In addition, many entrepreneurial master’s-educated social workers are starting their own businesses as private-practice geriatric case managers, helping families assess and develop care plans for aging relatives.

To Age with Dignity

St. Louis social work coordinator Diane Peterson, MSW, chose to work with the elderly after spending time with seniors during 18 months of physical therapy following a car accident. Touched by their kindness and support, Peterson abandoned plans for a career in Latin American art. Today, she works for PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly), a government program designed to help low- and middle-income seniors tap community resources so they can remain in their own homes.


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