Colorado State University’s School of Social Work to Train Social Workers in Older Adult Care

A program that prepares social workers to specialize in older adult care has been funded by a $75,000 grant. The program, available through the School of Social Work at Colorado State University’s College of Applied Human Sciences, is one of 25 funded over three years by the John A. Hartford Foundation.

The school at Colorado State will develop an innovative program, modeled after the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, that prepares social workers to specialize in older adult care, a growing demand in the United States.

The program will offer students hands-on and varied experience caring for older adults in settings including home-based care, community centers, hospitals and nursing homes. Traditional programs offer students only one clinical setting in which to study.

The nation’s aging population is expected to more than triple by 2050. Within the next three decades, 70 million Americans, or one in five, will be 65 or older. As life expectancy grows, the needs of older adults become more diverse. While many Americans live independent and productive years far beyond retirement, others experience illness and chronic disease.

"As families balance caring for older relatives with work, child-rearing and an otherwise hectic life, the demand for skilled professionals who can help navigate the personal, logistical and health issues of older adults is increasing," said Deborah Valentine, director of the School of Social Work. "Yet according to a 2004 survey by the National Association of Social Workers, only 4 percent of social workers currently specialize in helping the aging population. And nearly 30 percent of licensed social workers are older than 55 and poised to retire in the next decade.

"The entire Colorado community will benefit from this collaboration," Valentine said.  

Colorado State’s School of Social Work will invite students to specialize in the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education starting in the Fall 2008 semester. The first class of graduates is expected in 2010.

To date, about 600 students have graduated from Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education around the country, and 80 percent of them have gone on to pursue careers in the aging field.

The Hartford Partnership Program is previously known as the Practicum Partnership Program. The national Social Work Leadership Institute, which administers the grant, works to ensure that America’s older adults receive the care they need to live life to the fullest – and that their caregivers also get the support they deserve.

The John A. Hartford Foundation promotes the health and independence of America’s older adults.  Through grants, the foundation works to strengthen the nation’s capacity to provide effective, affordable care to this rapidly increasing older population by educating "aging-prepared" health professionals such as physicians, nurses and social workers.