Social Work Career Opportunities with Older Adults

Image Social Worker With Older Adult Client

By: Bob Karolich, associate professor, EKU Department of Anthropology, Sociology, & Social Work

If you have ever considered a social work career with older adults but thought you would be restricted to working in a nursing facility or other institutional setting, you may want to consider the following demographics. 

It is commonly known that the Baby Boomer generation or cohort are individuals worldwide that were born between the years of 1946 and 1964 and represent a large population. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) 40 million Americans were counted to be 65 years old or older in the 2010 census and this number is expected to be 72 million by 2030 (www.aarp.org/olderamericans2012/keyindicatorsofwell-being). 

A common misconception is that the majority of American older adults live in nursing facilities. This has led to many social work students to consider the career opportunities in working with older adults to be too restrictive or in a depressing work environment. 

The reality of the demographics of this population paints a very different picture. The Institute on Aging states that the number of older Americans in nursing facilities is approximately 1.3 million individuals which represents less than 4% of the older adult population in the United States (www.ioaging.org/aginginamerica). These demographics are meaningful when considering the remaining 96% of older Americans are living independently, with family members, senior apartments/assisted living, or other housing options. 

This demonstrates that social work career landscape with older adults is very diverse. Regardless of which work opportunity you choose, there are millions older adults in the United States that are in need of many of the same social work services and interventions as their younger counter parts. Find more career information at nasw.org and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm.      

Published on September 06, 2017