submitted by Adria Navarro, Ph.D., LCSW
On May 11th, 2021 the NASW-CA Council on Aging met virtually. The mission of the council is to enhance the quality of life for older adults residing in California by supporting the ethical and competent practice of gerontological social work. The Council is positioned to serve through participation and collaboration on annual NASW conference presentations, regular NASW-CA Newsletter content, NASW education recommendations, and involvement with Lobby Days.
Four issues were discussed:
- Medicare billing practices: Building and advocating for more capacity, mentorship for onboarding.
- Discharge planning with Assisted Living Waiver Program (ALWP): Waitlist, maintaining Medi-Cal eligibility, past policy to revive (e.g., AB 50, 2019), need for language interpreter services among contracted facilities.
- Aftermath of COVID surge: Lessons on impact of isolation, addressing increased mental health needs, aligning with state’s Master Plan on Aging efforts.
- Vaccinations among homebound and persons of color: Sensitivity to those refusing vaccinations, as well as education and access. Mobile units in many communities need our advocacy to increase volume of users.
Many older adult practices, policies, and research need our action! To network at the next quarterly Zoom meeting on July 13th, 2021 (12-1 pm PDT), please email Adria Navarro (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the Zoom link and agenda.
Spotlight Conversation with a Leader in Gerontological Social Work
Adjunct Professor Emerita of Social Welfare,
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Nothing About Us Without Us: The Voices of Older Persons
Increasingly aging organizations promote the stance, “Nothing About Us Without Us!” Personally, I experienced a “calling” to work with older persons when 18 years old, I have never wavered from a curiosity about human aging and commitment to the field of aging. Now I am 77 and one of the “Us.” I looked toward an important leadership role for social workers in the inclusion of older adults’ voices at all levels of our aging society.
Nothing About “Us Without Us!” has been asserted by diverse groups to assert that no policy should be decided without active participation of its impacted members. James Carlton’s book, titled by the slogan, documents how persons with disabilities powerfully asserted their rights resulting in legislation including the Americans with Disability Act (ADA, 1990). Older adults and younger persons with disabilities benefit immensely from the ADA. Not only policy decisions but program development, community contribution and individual/family care planning warrant involvement of a diverse representation of older persons, their families and communities. Increased inclusion is part of the movement from ageist perspectives involving “othering” older adults to the perspective of seeing them as active participants in decision-making processes that shape their lives and environments. Ageism is another “ism” to be unpacked from the cultural and structural weight we continue to carry as racism and sexism.
There is a growing body of research substantiating older adult’s potential for increased active life expectancy and social contribution. In the 1970s the field of aging began with a problem focus that described the burgeoning older population as a natural disaster, tsunami, etc. versus a major societal accomplishment of the 20st century. The cultural view of aging is expanding to appreciate the complexity and diversity of societal aging.
I assert that gerontological social workers are potentially, particularly prepared, based on national professional competencies, to provide interprofessional inclusion leadership. The call is to assure the competencies are rigorously and widely actualized in schools of social work and possibly continuing education. Since 2008, “Re-tooling for an Aging America” challenged the health professions to develop competencies (knowledge, attitudes and skill goals) specific to the needs of older populations. CSWE with support from the Hartford Foundation Geriatric Social Work Initiative, accomplished this task, see:
The following were among these competencies relating the voices of older adults to all levels of service design and delivery:
- Respect and promote older adult clients’ right to dignity and self-determination
- Address respectfully the cultural, spiritual, and ethnic values and beliefs of older adults and families
- Include older adults when planning and designing programs.
CSWE has continued to develop competences for social work practice with older adults, these are examples from their extensive work in 2013 and 2015:
- Practitioners in aging respect the worth, dignity, and integrity of all older people and advocate for their self-determination, access to services, …
- To ensure ethical practice, they use self-reflection… to address how their attitudes and biases about aging and older adults may influence their personal and professional values and behaviors.
- Practitioners in aging serve as leaders to ensure ethical practice with older adults and their care networks.
- Demonstrate active listening and engagement skills in order to understand the person’s approach, views, and what is important to and for them.
- Facilitate information sharing from the person and family, agencies, organizations and communities using tools such as open-ended questions, problem solving, and motivational interviewing techniques
Reflecting on 2020 as an apex in the demand from older adult service systems and a well-prepared workforce, we saw the workforce is not yet prepared to meet the needs of an aging society. Our American older population will double by 2050. Think of the power older adult voices can contribute to the changes we social works can champion.