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Preparing our workforce to deal with older adults in an aging society: The consumer's perspective

Elaine T. Jurkowski, PhD, School of Social Work, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Quigley 4, M/C 4329, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901, (618) 453-2243, etjurkow@siu.edu

Historically gerontological research and interventions have been centered upon the frail elderly and their caregivers. Hence, educational efforts to teach social workers and helping professionals have also focused on the frail elderly and those requiring skilled nursing care. Increased community census had led to a call to better prepare our workforce to deal with issues in an aging society. In an effort to prepare community and public health professionals working in rural communities with older adults in an aging society, a series of perspectives were sought to identify curricula necessary to prepare helping professional to deal with older adults in an aging society. Seniors from within a 25 county area were targeted through a series of focus groups at senior nutrition sites and senior centers. Seniors also completed a survey to identify and prioritize 60 competencies areas perceived as important for social workers. Findings suggest that seniors identified communication skills with older adults as critical in the helping process. Other skill areas necessary for working with this target population included mediation skills (for family mediation), knowledge of aging theory and medical conditions association with aging and knowledge about disabilities/impairments. Seniors also voiced the importance of “person first” maintaining a strengths perspective and ensuring dignity. This paper will discuss the findings and implications for curriculum development in an effort to infuse meaningful content about aging within public health and allied health curricula.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Workforce, Elderly

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Work and the Laborforce in an Aging Society

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA