Addressing aging


 

SUMMARY: The Department of Social Work, in partnership with the community organization ElderAlliance, Inc., hosted The State of the Older Adult: The Time is Now.


By: Brett Seekford '16
Creative Services Student Writer

Edited January 24, 2017

New documents from The State of the Older Adult

JMU SW students with commissioner on aging

JMU Social Work students with Jim Rothrock, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

Over the next 14 years, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 years old each day. This coming “age wave” brings with it challenges, such as allocation of government support services and the availability of caregivers for older adults. James Madison University has been exploring these trends and the potential issues accompanying them.

The Department of Social Work, in partnership with the community organization ElderAlliance, Inc., hosted The State of the Older Adult: The Time is Now. The event, held on November 2, brought many older adults to campus for the opportunity to learn about services and solutions for the aging populations.

Before the speakers presented, organizations devoted to the well-being of older adults in the area, such as local assisted-living facilities and medical providers, were on hand to distribute information about their services. During the event, several speakers discussed issues that communities face due to an aging population and the efforts being made to address them. President Jonathan Alger welcomed attendants before Jim Rothrock, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, presented the measures being taken by the state to ameliorate complications resulting from aging, including state-funded accommodations for caregivers and a website for older adults to find services in their area.

Significant preparation went into the success of this event. The discussion began a few years ago about ways for JMU to better engage the community to expand understanding of gerontology, a minor within social work. Through the university’s longtime partnership with ElderAlliance, Inc., the idea of a forum began.

After committing to this event, social work professor B. J. Bryson gathered a team of students over the summer to prepare the day’s schedule. Professor Dorothy Harriman was integral in community outreach, helping to bring 25 area vendors who deal with aging populations to the event.

Attendee at symposium“The older adult population is growing, and while many people may not be aware, the number of professionals equipped to work and advocate for this population is not,” Harriman said. “By showing our students the importance and necessity of trained, educated and engaged young professionals, that this is where employment and need for advocacy is, the forum was an attempt to bridge that connection and conversation.”

Students gained significant experience from their involvement. Sage Coury and MaKayla Smith, who both served as coordinators for The State of the Older Adult, spent countless hours with their group members to plan, organize and publicize the event. Their efforts taught them the importance of their future careers as social workers as they help address issues confronting vulnerable communities.

“My role in this event has taught me the need for social workers to assist people in this age range. Since it is dealing with baby boomers, this is a huge population that is going to need services,” Smith said. “We need to realize what problems are most prevalent and important to older adults and listen to what they have to say about these issues.”

“After participating in putting on this event, I’ve gained so much more confidence. I can see that it isn’t impossible to pull a community together,” Coury added.

Bryson sees the event as benefiting both older adults and JMU students because it addresses needs and concerns in the community while also introducing students to a potentially new career avenue.

“In social work we see older adults as a potentially vulnerable group, especially those with multiple challenges often caused by socioeconomic realities that start long before they turn 65,” she said. “We want students to be aware of working with older adults as a potential career direction, but to also be aware that many people need the services of social workers as advocates and care professionals.”

Bryson added, “This event supports JMU’s mission of being a national model for community engagement and engaged learning. We’re helping lead the way in preparing for our future.”

Published: Friday, December 9, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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