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Grant to support elder care social work program

By : Ryan Yarosh

The master’s of social work program will launch an initiative designed to prepare social workers to specialize in older adult care.

Binghamton will adopt a model developed by the New York Academy of Medicine’s Social Work Leadership Institute. The institute receives support from the John A. Hartford Foundation, which has also awarded the University a $75,000 grant.

The program, known as the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, addresses the growing demand for social workers as the United States’ population ages.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded this grant and to be able to expand our efforts toward increasing competence in gerontological social work in the Southern Tier,” Social Work Department Chair Laura Bronstein said. “This award would not have been possible without the collaboration of Broome County Aging Futures Partnership and local aging services providers.”

The Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education works to build collaborations between universities and community agencies to offer students hands-on and varied experience caring for older adults in a range of settings. The program differs from traditional MSW programs as it offers students field rotations rather than experience in a single agency setting during their academic-year placement.

The program at Binghamton will begin in the fall and will fund a faculty field instructor, a researcher and MSW interns to provide services to local participating agencies.
“This grant affords both the students and our community with invaluable resources,” said Jennifer Marshall, director of field education in the Social Work Department. “Students will have the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills working with elders across a continuum from health to death, while community agencies will have the added resources of our students, who will devote time and energy to build programs, assess needs and address policy needs of the aging population in this region.”

Over the course of an academic year, each student will be placed in at least two Southern Tier agencies serving older adults. Through these placements, students will assist agencies with various initiatives, such as needs assessments, researching the correlation between falls and vision impairment and the creation of support, and educational groups for caregivers in rural areas.

The need for trained social workers is entering a critical phase in the United States. Within the next three decades, 70 million — or one in five — Americans will be 65 or older. Yet, according to a 2004 survey by the National Association of Social Workers, only 4 percent of social workers now specialize in aging and nearly 30 percent of licensed social workers are over 55 and poised to retire in the next decade.

Nationally, seniors comprise 16.2 percent of the U.S. population.

Broome County ranks above the national average with more than 20 percent; 40 percent of those seniors are over the age of 75. In addition, the 85-plus age group is experiencing the highest rate of growth of any cohort.

The MSW program will partner with Aging Futures, which operates out of the Broome County Office for Aging and its 60 member agencies, as well as other local agencies serving older adults.

“Broome County has had a long-standing commitment to providing community-based services that assist elders to remain in their home,” said Kathleen Bunnell, director of the Broome County Office for Aging and chair of the Aging Futures Partnership. “We are uniquely positioned to provide a rich environment of study for MSW students. The exciting grant opportunity through the New York Academy of Medicine will help to address the needs of seniors while training a workforce that is currently not adequate to meet future needs.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08