In This Article Aging

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Guidebooks
  • Journals
  • Demographics
  • Health
  • Mental Health
  • Informal Social Supports
  • Family Caregiving
  • Intervention Effectiveness Research
  • Public Policy

Social Work Aging
by
Nancy R. Hooyman
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0069

Introduction

The rapid growth of the older population nationally and globally means that nearly all social workers will interact with older adults and their families, regardless of practice setting. Given this, it can be argued that all social workers need foundation gerontological competencies and content. Gerontology—the study of aging—is a complex, multidisciplinary, and dramatically changing field with a growing evidence base about the social, psychological, and physiological changes associated with aging and the salient practice interventions and policy implications for social workers and allied disciplines. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of aging, gerontological social workers, perhaps more than those in other fields of practice, must be knowledgeable about research on aging by disparate health care professions, psychology, sociology, environmental design, and anthropology. Gerontological social work is practiced in a wide range of community-based and institutional settings with active, healthy elders and with those who face chronic illness and disability. Leadership roles for gerontological social workers are emerging within the context of new initiatives, such as civic engagement and health enhancement. Because informal caregivers are central to the care of elders, social workers must also be competent in supporting families of older adults. Toward that end, there is a growing body of evidence on the effectiveness of social work interventions with older adults and their families or other informal caregivers. This entry reflects the broad scope of issues associated with aging and older adults. Although aging is a global phenomenon, the focus here is on evidence-based resources primarily in the United States.

Introductory Works

Many excellent textbooks provide a foundation for knowledge about aging, older adults and their families, and practice and policy interventions. What the reader will learn from them is the complexity of issues that people face as they age, the heterogeneity and diversity of the older population nationally and globally, the economic and health needs faced by subpopulations of elders who have been historically underserved, and the wide range of practice and policy approaches. Berkman 2003 provides a comprehensive overview of gerontological social work in health and long-term care settings. Among the practice texts, McInnis-Dittrich 2005 is most widely used for direct practice, while Richardson and Barusch 2006 includes more macro practice content. Cummings and Kropf 2008 is the most recent text on evidence-based interventions. Greene, et al. 2007 and Tompkins and Rosen 2007 address a competency-based approach to gerontological social work practice, with Greene, et al. 2007 linking content to widely utilized foundation and advanced geriatric social work competencies. Hooyman and Kiyak 2008, a social gerontology text widely used for over two decades, includes multidisciplinary content on the biological, psychological, and social changes of aging along with implications for policy.

  • Berkman, Barbara, ed. 2003. Social work and health care in an aging society: Education, policy, practice, and research. New York: Springer.

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    Presents multiple points of intersection between aging and physical and mental health and social work. Chapters examine race and culture in social work practice with elders as well as topics related to developmental disabilities, dementia, and informal caregivers of elders.

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    • Cummings, Sherry M., and Nancy P. Kropf, eds. 2008. Handbook of psychosocial interventions with older adults: Evidence-based approaches. New York: Haworth.

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      Reviews evidence-based interventions with older adults across a variety of physical and mental health conditions and caregiving relationships. Makes a significant contribution to evidence-based practice by highlighting the current empirical literature as the foundation for evaluating intervention research for clinical care.

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      • Greene, Roberta R., H. L. Cohen, C. M. Galambos, and Nancy P. Kropf. 2007. Foundations of social work practice in the field of aging: A competency-based approach. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.

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        Distinctive for its competency-based approach. Addresses social work practice with older adults, theories of aging and practice, interventions with diverse older adults, and values and ethics. It examines organizational changes, macro perspectives on community building, and policy practice related to advocacy for older adults. It is the first practice text to weave geriatric social work competencies related to assessment, interventions, group work, and case management throughout.

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        • Hooyman, Nancy R., and H. Asuman Kiyak. 2008. Social gerontology: A multidisciplinary perspective. 8th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

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          Comprehensive and cross-disciplinary, it addresses physical and cognitive changes, health care, and the social context of aging, including family caregiving and social support. Additional topics include employment, productivity, and civic engagement; love, intimacy, and sexuality; death, dying, and bereavement; and the resilience of elders of color and women. Concluding chapters examine salient social and health policies and programs. Useful to both undergraduate and graduate students.

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          • McInnis-Dittrich, Kathleen. 2005. Social work with elders: A biopsychosocial approach to assessment and intervention. Boston: Pearson, Allyn, and Bacon.

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            Widely utilized by direct practice instructors for over a decade, it gives an overview of the context of social work practice with older adults, including theories of aging and biological and psychosocial issues. Assessment, diagnosis, and intervention skills are discussed. Key practice skills are addressed pertaining to socioemotional and cognitive problems, elder abuse and neglect, support systems, addictions, spirituality, group work, and end-of-life care and bereavement.

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            • Richardson, Virginia E., and Amanda S. Barusch. 2006. Gerontological practice for the twenty-first century: A social work perspective. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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              Targets social work students and professionals interested in both direct and macro practice with older adults. Theories of aging and practice, demographic realities, common psychological problems, family and work issues, and the sociopolitical context that impacts older adults are addressed. Case examples illustrate empirically based interventions at micro and macro practice levels.

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              • Tompkins, Catherine J., and Anita L. Rosen, eds. 2007. Fostering social work gerontology competence: A collection of papers from the first National Gerontological Social Work Conference. New York: Haworth.

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                Includes articles from a national conference on teaching, research, community collaboration, and gerontological social work competencies as well as social work practice with older adults in a variety of practice settings. Articles address culturally competent practice, religion and spirituality, grief and end-of-life care, mental health practice, and macro and research social work practice.

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                General Overviews

                Given that the field of gerontology is growing rapidly, a large and diverse set of web-based gerontological resources is available in social work and in allied disciplines. Many of these online resources are associated with national and international organizations, such as the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and the National Council on Aging; others, such as the Administration on Aging (AOA) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), are governmental. The latter website provides up-to-date background statistics on aging, while the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) AgeLine Database and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Internet Resources on Aging websites are useful to educators, students, and practitioners conducting research on specific topics in aging. The Alzheimer’s Internet resources, which include information on all types of dementia, are widely utilized by researchers, practitioners, and family caregivers of persons with dementia.

                • Administration on Aging (AOA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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                  Provides a comprehensive overview of federally funded aging network programs and services for older adults, caregivers, community service providers, researchers, and students. As a good entry point, the site includes up-to-date resources on demographics, health care, housing, communications, grant opportunities, and other related topics. Also links to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

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                  • Alzheimer’s Association.

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                    This website provides up-to-date and user-friendly information, education, and support for people with dementia, caregivers, practitioners, and researchers. Offers specialized resources for African Americans and Latinos and Latinas and information in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Often regarded as one of the best gerontological websites related to cognitive changes and caregiving.

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                    • American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). AgeLine Database.

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                      An online, searchable bibliographic database addressing the social, psychological, economic, policy, and health care aspects of aging. The website provides summaries of relevant journal articles, books, chapters, research reports, dissertations, and videos with some links to full texts.

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                      • American Association of Retired Persons. Internet Resources on Aging.

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                        The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) database on Internet resources on issues for people age fifty and over includes tools to search and browse topics of interest to older adults, families, researchers, students, and professionals in the field of aging. Links to web-based research and policy briefs related to special populations of older adults; caregiving; and legal, state, and local resources for older adults.

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                        • Geriatric Social Work Initiative.

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                          The John A. Hartford Foundation has given nearly $65 million to geriatric social work education. This Geriatric Social Work Initiative (GSWI) website links to each of the four Hartford social work programs and extensive resources on careers in aging, teaching resources for the classroom and the field, public policy initiatives, and research.

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                          • Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

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                            A multidisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging, the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) aims to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. Another entry point to Internet resources, the website includes links to Gerontological Society of America journals, career information, grant and research opportunities, and a database of experts on nearly every aspect of gerontological research.

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                            • National Council on Aging.

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                              This national service and advocacy organization provides leadership in collaborations across community organizations, businesses, and the government to help older adults remain in their homes and active in their communities, find jobs and benefits, and improve their health. Links to related advocacy efforts, research, and various programs that promote older adults’ well-being. Offers a macro and policy focus germane to practitioners.

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                              • National Institute on Aging (NIA).

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                                The National Institute on Aging (NIA) leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. The website includes information in English and Spanish on healthy aging, caregiving, medications, dietary supplements, and diseases. Links to additional information on funding and research, statistics, and news as well as a searchable database of over three hundred national aging-focused organizations.

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                                • World Health Organization (WHO). Ageing.

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                                  The World Health Organization (WHO) website includes statistics, multimedia resources, and downloadable publications related to international issues for older adults. The website is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish and provides links for specific information and programs based on region.

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                                  Guidebooks

                                  The books in this section are conceptualized as guidebooks—comprehensive resources to guide social work practice, teaching, and research with older adults. Additionally these are a good place to start when seeking contemporary and classic references on a wide range of gerontological topics.

                                  • Bengtson, Vern L., Daphna Gans, Norella M. Putney, and Merril Silverstein, eds. 2009. Handbook of theories of aging. 2d ed. New York: Springer.

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                                    A must-have reference for those seeking the latest theoretical developments. Chapters are organized by contextual issues of theories of aging: theorizing across disciplines; biological, psychological, and social science theories; public policy and theories of aging; translating theories of aging; and the future of theories of aging. Clearly written, up-to-date social science perspectives that capture phenomenology, social constructivism, feminist theory, cumulative inequality theory, and theorizing across cultures.

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                                    • Berkman, Barbara, ed. 2006. Handbook of social work in health and aging. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                      Comprehensive collection by leaders in the field that encompasses social work practice and policy in a wide range of health care settings and addresses specific physical and mental health issues and particular populations of older adults. Practice issues associated with assessment and intervention with older adults and caregivers are discussed. Excellent overall sourcebook on social work and health care of elders and a good starting point for further research.

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                                      • Binstock, Robert H., and Linda K. George, eds. 2006. Handbook of aging and the social sciences.Boston: Academic.

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                                        This volume on aging and the social sciences contains theories and concepts of aging in research and international and United States aging issues, including work, health, diversity, religion, politics, and justice. It examines quality of life and lifestyle issues and emerging trends and stresses in long-term care and antiaging medicine. There are two accompanying volumes addressing the biological and psychological aspects of aging. These handbooks are frequently updated and thus reflect the latest research by leading gerontological scholars.

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                                        • Blackburn, James A., and Catherine N. Dulmus, eds. 2007. Handbook of gerontology: Evidence-based approaches to theory, practice, and policy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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                                          An edited book with chapters by gerontologists in social work, psychology, and medicine organized in terms of evidence-based theory, evidence-based health promotion, and evidence-based family and community practice with introductory and concluding chapters on globalization. As with many edited books that are multidisciplinary in nature, each chapter is discrete without a synthesis or summation.

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                                          • Schulz, R., Linda S. Noelker, Kenneth Rockwood, and Richard Sprott. 2006. The encyclopedia of aging.2 vols. 4th ed. New York: Springer.

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                                            A comprehensive, definitive resource for faculty and students of gerontology and geriatrics. Contains concise, readable explorations of nearly six hundred terms, concepts, and issues related to the lives of older adults and timely coverage of new programs and services for older adults and families. An excellent library reference tool.

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                                            Journals

                                            A growing number of journals are related to aging and older adults. Although only one, the Journal of Gerontological Social Work, is specific to social work, the others reviewed here all have relevance to social work, particularly given the multidisciplinary nature of the field of aging. The premier journals that are most germane to social work are those published by the Gerontological Society of America, Gerontologist and Journals of Gerontology: Series A and Journals of Gerontology: Series B. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry is most relevant to social work researchers and educators specializing in mental health. Gerontology and Geriatrics Education is particularly useful to gerontological educators. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is medically focused, and the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect has a multidisciplinary focus that incorporates contributions from a broad range of disciplines and practice areas, including social work, nursing, medicine, law, and public policy.

                                            • American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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                                              Published by the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, this journal addresses the diagnosis and classification of psychiatric disorders of later life, epidemiological and biological correlates of mental health of older adults, and psychopharmacology and other treatments.

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                                              • Gerontologist.

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                                                A journal of the Gerontological Society of America, it provides multidisciplinary articles on aging research and analysis related to social policy, program development, and service delivery. Contributions are included from social and psychological sciences, biomedical and health sciences, political science and public policy, economics, education, law, and the humanities. Places greater emphasis on policy and practice implications than do the Journals of Gerontology.

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                                                • Gerontology and Geriatrics Education.

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                                                  Published by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, this is the primary journal for gerontological educators across a wide range of disciplines and is focused on curriculum development, course and program evaluation, classroom and practice innovation, and other topics with educational implications for gerontology and geriatrics.

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                                                  • Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect.

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                                                    The only journal specifically addressing the growing issue of elder maltreatment, it explores research, policy, practice, and clinical and ethical issues related to the abuse and neglect of older people. This is an excellent starting point resource for those conducting research on elder mistreatment.

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                                                    • Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

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                                                      The sole journal specific to gerontological social work, it addresses issues related to social work practice, theory, and administration and current research related to older adults and their families. Annual subscription is free to members of the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work (AGESW).

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                                                      • Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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                                                        Despite its medical focus, this journal is highly relevant to social workers because of its content on clinical practical research and common diseases and disorders of older adults. Contents include current research findings, editorials from international experts, and reviews, with some articles by geriatric social workers.

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                                                        • Journals of Gerontology, series A.

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                                                          The first journals on aging in the United States, these publish research and review articles and guest editorials. Series A includes the Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, focusing on biological aspects of aging, and Medical Sciences, addressing basic medical science and health services research. Both are relevant to social workers’ understanding of chronic disease, health care, and long-term care needs.

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                                                          • Journals of Gerontology, series B.

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                                                            Series B publishes research, theoretical and methodological articles, brief reports, and reviews relevant to gerontological social work. Psychological Sciences addresses applied, clinical and counseling, developmental, experimental, and social psychology of aging; and Social Sciences includes articles from anthropology, demography, economics, epidemiology, geography, political science, public health, social history, social work, and sociology.

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                                                            Demographics

                                                            Administration on Aging 2009 and Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics 2008 are both excellent government sources on the demographics of aging. They are a valuable statistical resource for researchers as well as students and practitioners interested in the most recently available census and other governmental data on demographic and other associated trends.

                                                            • Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2009. A profile of older Americans: 2008.

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                                                              Presents demographic data on older Americans, including statistics pertaining to marital status, race, ethnicity, income, housing, education, health care, and caregiving. The data reflect the increasing diversity of the older population and socioeconomic factors directly impacting older adults and their families.

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                                                              • Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics. 2008. Data sources on older Americans 2008.

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                                                                This user-friendly source provides an accessible compendium of indicators from official statistics compiled by fifteen participating federal agencies. Data categories are population, economics, health status, health risk and behaviors, and health care specific to older Americans.

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                                                                Health

                                                                The incidence of chronic illness increases with age, although the majority of older adults perceive themselves as healthy and are able to live in community-based settings. Given social workers’ central roles in health care and long-term care settings, they need background information on risk and protective factors related to health status, an understanding of health disparities faced by historically underserved populations, and knowledge of the limitations of major policies, such as Medicare and Medicaid (cited in Public Policy). Although aging is often associated with disease, a growing number of elders are healthy, and rates of disability with age are declining, pointing to the need for new paradigms, such as active aging and resilience, that are congruent with social work values of empowerment and dignity. An emerging role for social workers is in health promotion and civic engagement to enhance active aging.

                                                                • Almgren, Gunnar. 2007. Health care politics, policy, and services: A social justice analysis. New York: Springer.

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                                                                  Provides a framework to question and critique our current health care system by addressing issues of rights, responsibilities, and potential reform. Distinctive for its analysis of the underlying issues of the United States health care system alongside a variety of social justice models that can be used to evaluate and perhaps eventually change health care. Winner of the 2008 American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award.

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                                                                  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Aging for Older Adults.

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                                                                    This website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers excellent overviews of issues related to chronic disease, caregiving, and end-of-life care and presents exemplars of innovative state programs to promote health-enhancing behaviors.

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                                                                    • Committee on the Future Health Care Workforce for Older Americans, Board on Health Care Services, Institute of Medicine. 2008. Retooling for an aging America: Building the health care workforce. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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                                                                      Documents the shortage of health care providers for older adults and calls for increased efforts to recruit, retain, and train geriatric health providers, direct care workers, and family caregivers and to develop coordinated systems of care that are both person centered and family centered. Also addresses the need for new models of coordinated care along with geriatric specialists. The national Eldercare Workforce Alliance is seeking to implement the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations through federal legislation. Available online.

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                                                                      • Journal of Aging and Health.

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                                                                        This bimonthly journal publishes articles related to gerontology and health from a wide variety of disciplines, including social work. Contributions include current research findings and scholarly exchanges on a wide range of aging-related topics.

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                                                                        • Kane, Robert L., and Rosalie A. Kane. 2000. Assessing older persons: Measures, meaning, and practical applications. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                          A comprehensive reference on the multidimensional assessment of older persons, including spirituality. It provides detailed accounts of the most commonly used measures for a wide range of functions with discussions of their particular applications in the care of older persons. Distinctive in its combination of information on specific measures with insights into how and when each measure should be used.

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                                                                          • World Health Organization (WHO). 2002. Active ageing: A policy framework. Paper presented at the Second United Nations World Assembly on Aging, Madrid, Spain.

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                                                                            This report is particularly salient to gerontological social work for its presentation of an active aging model for examining global challenges to aging populations. Additionally it presents policy proposals that are consistent with social work’s strengths and empowerment perspective. Available online.

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                                                                            Mental Health

                                                                            Social workers are the largest providers of mental health services, yet relatively few social workers have training in geriatric mental health. This is of concern given the high rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, medication misuse, delirium, and dementia among older adults and the mental health disparities faced by elders from historically underserved populations.

                                                                            • Aging and Mental Health.

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                                                                              Focusing on the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging as they relate to mental health, this journal draws an international and interdisciplinary audience with a particular emphasis on psychiatric and psychological applications of theoretical, experimental, and applied sciences.

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                                                                              • Alzheimer’s Association.

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                                                                                Often regarded as one of the best gerontological websites: up-to-date and user-friendly, it provides information, education, and support for people with dementia, caregivers, practitioners, and researchers. Specialized resources offered for African Americans and Latinos and Latinas and information in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.

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                                                                                • American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

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                                                                                  Addresses clinically oriented advances in the care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. Content includes practical medical, psychiatric, nursing, and psychosocial issues; practice-oriented clinical research; and administrative and legal issues. The dementia knowledge base is rapidly changing, and this journal helps educators and practitioners remain current on causes and potential cures.

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                                                                                  • Gellis, Zvi D., and Bonnie Kenaley. 2008. Problem-solving therapy for depression in adults: A systematic review. Research on Social Work Practice 18:117–131.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/1049731507301277E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    This analysis of twenty-two intervention studies using randomized controlled designs and problem-solving therapy (PST) presents evidence of the effectiveness of problem-solving therapy for treating depressed adults. Analyses of four significant studies of multifaceted interventions inform future research and clinical practice with evidence that problem-solving therapy combined with medication was the most effective treatment protocol examined.

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                                                                                    • Kessler, R. C., K. D. Mikelson, and D. R. Williams. 1999. The prevalence, distribution, and mental health correlates of perceived discrimination in the United States. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 40:208–230.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2676349E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      This is a classic article on the correlates of perceived discrimination and its effects on mental health across the life span in a national survey examining race, ethnicity, age, and mental health, among many additional variables.

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                                                                                      • Lincoln, Karen D., Robert Joseph Taylor, and Linda M. Chatters. 2003. Correlates of emotional support and negative interaction among older black Americans. Journals of Gerontology, ser. B 58.4: S225–S233.

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                                                                                        This study by the leading researchers on mental health among African American older adults examines the distinctive set of predictors explaining emotional support and negative interactions for older black Americans. The Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan has an extensive national database on African American mental health.

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                                                                                        Informal Social Supports

                                                                                        Contrary to stereotypes of lonely older adults, most elders have informal supports of family, friends, and neighbors. Nevertheless the size of social networks typically declines with age, and loneliness and social isolation increase with age and for men and elders of color. More research is needed to determine whether and how social support interventions enhance physical and mental well-being.

                                                                                        • Bengston, Vern L. 2001. Beyond the nuclear family: The increasing importance of multigenerational bonds. Journal of Marriage and the Family 63:1–16.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00001.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Presents theoretical bases and empirical evidence regarding how and why multigenerational ties are becoming more important to the functioning of families given increased life expectancy and the growth of three-, four-, and even five-generation families.

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                                                                                          • Cattan, Mima, Martin White, John Bond, and Alison Learmouth. 2005. Preventing social isolation and loneliness among older people: A systematic review of health promotion interventions. Ageing and Society 25:41–67.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X04002594E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            There is relatively limited empirical evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to reduce social isolation among older people. An analysis of health promotion outcome studies from 1970 to 2002 found that group interventions with an educational or support component were more effective in alleviating loneliness among elders than one-on-one interventions. Also points to the need for more research on social support interventions.

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                                                                                            • James E. Lubben 1988. Assessing social networks among elderly populations. Family and Community Health 11.3: 42–52.

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                                                                                              Presents the initial research for the Lubben Social Network Scale, which has become a widely utilized tool in research and clinical practice to assess elders’ social networks. The article provides evidence of the scale’s high correlation with measures of mental health, healthy lifestyles, and life satisfaction and suggests the importance of assessment and intervention with socially isolated elders.

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                                                                                              • Lubben, James E., Eva Blozik, Gerhard Gillmann, Steve Iliffe, Wolfgang von Renteln Kruse, John C. Beck, and Andreas E. Stuck. 2006. Performance of an abbreviated version of the Lubben Social Network Scale among three European community-dwelling older adult populations. Gerontologist 46.4: 503–513.

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                                                                                                Reports the findings of a cross-national and cross-cultural study of an abbreviated version of the Lubben Social Network tool to screen for social isolation among community-dwelling older adults, concluding that it is an effective tool for gerontological social work practitioners.

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                                                                                                Family Caregiving

                                                                                                The majority of community-based care of older adults is provided by family members, not formal service providers. With more elders living longer with chronic illness, particularly dementia, and increasing economic pressures on families, family caregivers face emotional, financial, and physical stress. Increasingly grandparents are expected to be the sole caregivers to grandchildren because their adult children are unable or unwilling to provide care. Such caregiving roles are redefining “retirement” for many older adults.

                                                                                                • Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving.

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                                                                                                  The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers information, education, services, research, and advocacy to support and sustain families caring for relatives with chronic, disabling health conditions. Resources address public policy and chronic diseases and offer population-specific online support groups. Family Caregiving: Emerging Practices and Tools for Professionals highlights new programs supporting family caregivers and aims to promote the adoption of practice based on research.

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                                                                                                  • Foundation for Grandparenting.

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                                                                                                    Provides print and online resources to enhance the well-being of grandchildren, parents, and grandparents through education, research, programs, communication, and networking, including information on grandparents’ legal rights and links to United States and international grandparenting organizations.

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                                                                                                    • Galambos, C. H., ed. 2008. Professional partners supporting family caregivers. Special supp., Journal of Social Work Education 44.3: 1–4.

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                                                                                                      Papers from an interdisciplinary invitational symposium on the roles of nurses and social workers in supporting family caregivers. An underlying assumption is that social workers need to view family members as part of the client system in addition to the older adult. The broad range of articles includes topics of assessment, intervention, and referral in developing competent practice skills and attending to the special needs of informal and family caregivers as part of the client system.

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                                                                                                      • Hayslip, Bert, Jr., and Patricia L. Kaminski. 2005. Grandparents raising their grandchildren. In Challenges of aging on U.S. families: Policy and practice implications. Edited by Richard K. Caputo, 147–169. New York: Haworth.

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                                                                                                        Presents a synthesis of research findings about grandparents as caregivers, including issues pertaining to diversity, social support, theoretical perspectives, and interventions. Social workers in all practice settings and particularly child welfare need the knowledge and skills to work effectively with the growing number of grandparents and great grandparents who are primary caregivers.

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                                                                                                        • National Alliance for Caregiving.

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                                                                                                          A coalition of national organizations addressing issues related to family caregiving and seeking to influence legislation to support caregivers. The website includes links to reports and policy papers, state and local caregiving organizations, and United States and international legislative issues pertaining to caregiving.

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                                                                                                          Historically Underserved Populations

                                                                                                          A growing body of evidence-based literature is being published on historically underserved populations, primarily elders of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) elders; and old women.

                                                                                                          Elders of Color

                                                                                                          Approximately 19 percent of the current population age 65 and older are persons of color: 8.3 percent African American, 6.6 percent Latino and Latina, 3.2 percent Asian and Pacific Islander, and less than 1 percent Native American. But this proportion will increase to 33 percent by 2030, a rate of growth faster than among the Caucasian population. Because historically underserved populations tend to face more economic and health problems, these changes have profound implications for social work research, education, and practice. The articles in this subsection provide a foundation for understanding the distinctive needs of elders of color across the life course, where inequities earlier in their lives tend to be intensified in old age.

                                                                                                          • Dilworth-Anderson, Peggye, Ishan Canty Williams, and Brent E. Gibson. 2002. Issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in caregiving research: A 20-year review (1980–2000). Gerontologist 42:237–272.

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                                                                                                            This systematic analysis reviews fifty-nine caregiving research articles published between 1980 and 2000, examining some preliminary conclusions based on race, ethnicity, and culture and proposing future research directions. Highly recommended for researchers on caregiving and elders of color.

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                                                                                                            • Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology.

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                                                                                                              This quarterly journal offers an interdisciplinary and international forum for discussing research findings, theoretical issues, and applied approaches that address non-Western older adults. Articles provide a comparative orientation to the study of aging from social, economic, historical, and biological perspectives.

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                                                                                                              • Office of Minority Health (OMH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2007. HHS fact sheet: Minority health disparities at a glance.

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                                                                                                                This summary provides a brief overview of statistics related to disproportionate negative outcomes of certain diseases on racial and ethnic populations as compared to the United States population as a whole.

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                                                                                                                • Pinquart, Martin, and Silvia Sörensen. 2005. Ethnic differences in stressors, resources, and psychological outcomes of family caregiving: A meta-analysis. Gerontologist 45.1: 90–106.

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                                                                                                                  This comprehensive meta-analysis examines the results of 116 empirical studies to investigate ethnic differences in caregiver backgrounds, stressors, beliefs, resources, coping, and physical and psychological health.

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                                                                                                                  • Stanford Geriatric Education Center.

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                                                                                                                    This center has extensive resources on health-related information for older populations of color. Offers Curriculum in Ethnogeriatrics and Improving Communication with Elders of Different Cultures.

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                                                                                                                    • Whitfield, K. E., ed. 2004. Closing the gap: Improving the health of minority elders in the new millennium.Washington, DC: Gerontological Society of America.

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                                                                                                                      A collection of articles by leading scholars on health disparities and cumulative disadvantage across the life course with a focus on structural determinants and policy issues that must be addressed to improve the quality of life of elders of color.

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                                                                                                                      Old Women

                                                                                                                      Old women form the majority of older adults and are more likely than their male counterparts to be poor, living alone, providing care for other relatives, without adequate Social Security or pension benefits, and faced with chronic illness. Reflecting the intersections of gender and racial disparities across the life course, African American and Latina older women are the poorest groups in our society.

                                                                                                                      • Calasanti, Toni M., and Kathleen F. Slevin. 2001. Gender, social inequalities, and aging. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

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                                                                                                                        Examines aging and ageism through the lens of gender, including the impact of gender and social inequalities on the study of aging, the social construction of age and sexuality, retirement, employment, and caregiving. Brings a feminist and social constructionist perspective.

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                                                                                                                        • Journal of Women and Aging.

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                                                                                                                          This quarterly journal includes research and practice-based articles from leading authorities in gerontology, nursing, medicine, mental health, sociology, and social work that address the health and welfare needs of older women.

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                                                                                                                          • Older Women’s League.

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                                                                                                                            Older Women’s League (OWL) is a national grassroots membership organization focused on issues distinctive to women as they age by offering education and policy advocacy related to health, economic security, and quality of life. The website includes downloadable resources concerning Social Security, poverty, pay equity, homelessness, elder abuse and neglect, and a range of physical and mental health concerns for older women as well as recommendations for political advocacy at the state and national levels.

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                                                                                                                            • Olson, Laura Katz. 2003. The not-so-golden years. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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                                                                                                                              A feminist analysis and critique of long-term care addressing the intersections of age, gender, race, and class that result in limited options for long-term care for low-income women of color.

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                                                                                                                              Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Older Adults

                                                                                                                              Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) elders face particular structural and policy challenges as they age, since many services and programs are based on the assumption of married heterosexual partners. Social workers need to understand the life course of different cohorts of LGBT elders in order to work effectively with them and to advocate on their behalf.

                                                                                                                              • Cohen, Harriet L., and Yvette Murray. 2006. Older lesbian and gay caregivers: Caring for families of choice and caring for families of origin. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 14.1–2: 275–298.

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                                                                                                                                Examines the sociohistorical context of older lesbian and gay men caregivers along with cohort differences and presents an overview of research on older lesbian and gay caregivers for families of origin and families of choice. An excellent resource for researchers of informal caregivers among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations.

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                                                                                                                                • Donahue, Peter, and Lynn McDonald. 2005. Gay and lesbian aging: Current perspectives and future directions for social work practice and research. Families in Society 86.3: 359–366.

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                                                                                                                                  This article, while quite general, is distinctive by directly addressing the current status of social work practice and research with older gay men and lesbians.

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                                                                                                                                  • Fredriksen-Goldsen, Karen I., ed. 2007. Caregiving with pride. Birmingham, NY: Haworth.

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                                                                                                                                    This collection of articles addresses multiple topics related to caregiving and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults, including social support systems, HIV/AIDS, impact of caregiving and care receiving, and the caregiving experiences of American Indian two-spirit men and women. While acknowledging that LGBT caregiving studies are still developing a body of literature, these articles also represent both overviews of LGBT elders and caregivers and some in-depth treatment of specific topics and populations.

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                                                                                                                                    • Kimmel, Douglas, Tara Rose, and Steven David, eds. 2006. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender aging: Research and clinical perspectives. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                      Reviews the broad context of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) aging with chapters focusing on subgroups and topics including physical and mental health, sexuality and intimacy, victimization, alcohol and drugs, legal concerns and social policy, and approaches to assessing community needs. Some formal research articles present specific examples of recent studies, while other program evaluation articles and theoretical works present more applied and directly clinical treatments.

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                                                                                                                                      • Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC).

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                                                                                                                                        Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC) is a national network comprising local chapters of lesbians over the age of sixty working to make life better for old lesbians through confronting ageism. The website offers currently relevant news and events, recommended readings and videos concerning lesbian aging, and links to local chapters and sister organizations.

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                                                                                                                                        Intervention Effectiveness Research

                                                                                                                                        These are articles or websites on studies of interventions, especially care coordination, such as Shojania, et al. 2007, found to be effective with older adults and their family caregivers. Others, such as Burnette, et al. 2003, Rizzo and Rowe 2006, and Social Work Leadership Institute, point to the priority needs for more intervention research on geriatric social work practice. Evaluation of prevention and interventions with elders, such as the research of Mittelman, et al. 2004 and Zarit and Femia 2008 with caregivers of persons with dementia, also point to the critical need for more rigorous intervention research to make the case for Medicare or Medicaid funding for social work. Aranda, et al. 2003 is included as a community-based intervention project that has been evaluated and found to be effective.

                                                                                                                                        • Aranda, Maria P., Valentine M. Villa, Laura Trejo, Rosa Ramirez, and Martha Ranney. 2003. El Portal Latino Alzheimer’s Project: Model program for Latino caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease–affected people. Social Work 48.2: 259–271.

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                                                                                                                                          The El Portal Latino Alzheimer’s Project is an interorganizational community-based collaboration providing an array of coordinated, ethnic-sensitive services to Latino and Latina dementia-affected adults and their family caregivers using culturally specific outreach and services delivery strategies. Results of an evaluation of service utilization indicate a reduction in barriers to care and an increase in services utilization. Widely referred to as an effective model for reaching elders of color who can benefit from services.

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                                                                                                                                          • Burnette, Denise, Nancy Morrow-Howell, and Li-Mei Chen. 2003. Setting priorities for gerontological social work research: A national Delphi study. Gerontologist 43:828–838.

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                                                                                                                                            Presents results of a national Delphi study of expert panelists on setting research priorities for gerontological social work. The top priority topic was developing and testing psychosocial interventions across specific populations and conditions, followed by topics on intervention research and service research. These priorities complement the research agendas of the National Research Council and the National Institute on Aging and guide the development of social work research to improve practice and policies affecting older adults and their families.

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                                                                                                                                            • Mittelman, Mary S., David L. Roth, William E. Haley, and Steven H. Zarit. 2004. Effects of a caregiver intervention on negative caregiver appraisals of behavior problems in patients with Alzheimer’s disease: Results of a randomized trial. Journals of Gerontology, ser. B 59:27–34.

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                                                                                                                                              A sample of 406 spouse-caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease was randomized to an active multicomponent counseling and support intervention condition or to a usual care condition. Although the intervention did not affect the frequency of patient behavioral problems, it did significantly reduce caregivers’ reaction ratings. Because caregiver appraisals are found to mediate the impact of caregiving stress on depression and to predict nursing home placement rates, this study suggests that they are an important target of intervention services. Mittelman’s intervention has been widely replicated by other sites.

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                                                                                                                                              • Rizzo, Victoria M., and Jeannine M. Rowe. 2006. Studies of the cost-effectiveness of social work services in aging: A review of the literature. Research on Social Work Practice 16.1: 67–73.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/1049731505276080E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                To build a case for the modification of the reimbursement structures of Medicare and Medicaid to include social work, a review of studies of social work services in aging was conducted with the following aims: (a) to make explicit the current knowledge of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these services, (b) to identify current gaps in knowledge, (c) to promote a research agenda to address the gaps, and (d) to ensure that the knowledge identified addresses payers’ needs to understand the value of social work services in aging. The results indicate that social work interventions can have a positive impact on health care costs, and this is one of the few studies to make an evidence-based case for the cost-effectiveness of social work services in federal programs.

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                                                                                                                                                • Shojania, K. G., K. M. McDonald, R. M. Wachter, and D. K. Owens, eds. 2007. Closing the quality gap: A critical analysis of quality improvement strategies. Vol. 7, Care coordination, by V. Sundaram, D. Bravata, R. Lewis, N. Lin, S. Kraft, et al. ARQ Publications no. 04 (07)-0051-7. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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                                                                                                                                                  This comprehensive examination of seventy-five systematic reviews offers up-do-date evaluation of the evidence base for care coordination interventions with older adults, persons with mental illness, and individuals with chronic illness. Care coordination interventions improved patient outcomes in different diseases across a spectrum of clinical settings, and specifically for older adults, have resulted in reduced numbers of hospital admissions. Points to the need for more research to determine which specific components of care coordination affect which outcomes.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Social Work Leadership Institute. An Evidence Database to Support Research in Aging: Helping Translate Research into Policy.

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                                                                                                                                                    Regularly updated online database of the latest research and innovations in care coordination and social work intervention effectiveness, including prevention. Includes systematic review of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of social work interventions with older adults as well as other populations published since 1990. Intended to provide the empirical basis for policy advocacy. Keyword search function facilitates its use.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Zarit, S. H., and E. E. Femia. 2008. A future for family care and dementia intervention research? Challenges and strategies. Aging and Mental Health 12.1: 5–13.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/13607860701616317E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Despite considerable research on the needs of family caregivers of people with dementia, the literature on empirically validated treatments has grown slowly, with many existing treatment trials showing weak or only modest benefits on caregiver outcomes. The authors suggest that the research strategies used for testing the effectiveness of interventions have limitations, which may have contributed to their findings of minimal improvement. Includes recommended strategies for addressing some of the methodological issues that may have affected previous trials.

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                                                                                                                                                      Public Policy

                                                                                                                                                      The development of age-based policies, particularly Social Security and Medicare (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), reflect a viewpoint that elders are universally entitled to certain benefits. With the growing number of older adults whose retirement income has been threatened by the early 21st-century economic crisis, debates about the future of these policies and their impact on younger generations are frequently in the public eye. These articles provide evidence contrary to many stereotypes of older adults that are conducive to informed debate and policy making.

                                                                                                                                                      • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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                                                                                                                                                        The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) includes extensive information, instructions, and downloads regarding Medicare, Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), regulations, research, and statistical information for people with Medicare and Medicaid as well as providers and researchers. A useful resource for researchers, practitioners, and older adults and their families.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Hudson, Robert B., ed. 2005. The new politics of old age policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                          A collection of articles offering social constructionist, modernist, and feminist critiques of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and possible directions for change. Addresses gender, racial, and class inequities that increase with age. A useful and intellectually stimulating reader for social policy students on the complexities of age-based policies and programs.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Hudson, Robert B., ed. 2009. Boomer bust? Economic and political issues of the graying society. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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                                                                                                                                                            The baby boomers are changing the landscape of aging, impacting health and income security policies and programs but also designing and demanding new approaches to health care, cooperative housing arrangements, lifelong learning, positive aging, and use of technology. This collection by leading authors from fields such as economics, political science, and finance highlights the terms of the debate about the aging boomers and showcases innovative policies.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Journal of Aging and Social Policy.

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                                                                                                                                                              Includes contributions from an international and interdisciplinary panel of policy analysts, researchers, and scholars on macro-level issues that affect older adults in societies throughout the world.

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                                                                                                                                                              • National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

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                                                                                                                                                                National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) is a national membership organization providing leadership through advocacy, education, services, and organizing to protect and promote the financial security, health, and well-being of older adults. Focuses on Medicare and Social Security but also includes other aging-related issues. Website is in English and Spanish.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Public Policy and Aging Report.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Published quarterly by the National Academy on an Aging Society, this report explores policy issues generated by the aging of American society. Each thematic issue is addressed to decision makers in public and private sectors, program administrators, researchers, students, and the interested public. Excellent for remaining current on policy debates and for teaching social policy courses.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Schulz, James H., and Robert H. Binstock. 2008. Aging nation: The economics and politics of growing older in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Timely in its analysis of the growing poverty rates, part-time employment among older adults, and declines in retirement income and health insurance. The authors argue against a demographic crisis and instead advocate for health care reform and modest changes in Social Security to ensure its solvency. Excellent resource for policy curriculum.

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