Guide to Social Services for Elderly Provided by Social Workers


Exploring Geriatric Social Work With Older Adults – Everything You Need to Know

The percentage of the population that is 65 and older has been growing globally over the past few years. A few years ago, 1 in 11 people in the world were age 65 and up. By 2050, it’s projected that 1 in 6 people globally will be 65 or older.

Lifespans are increasing as modern medicine makes living longer lives possible. Additionally, the Baby Boomer population has increased the number of people considered “elderly.”

What this means for social services for the elderly is that more help will be needed to provide guidance, counseling, elder care, in-home assistance, emotional support, and many other types of aid.

A social worker for the elderly is going to be in even higher demand in the coming years. So, for those geriatric social workers going into the social work field, gerontological social work (also known as geriatric social work) holds a lot of promise.

geriatric social work

The Importance of Social Workers for Elderly


Table of Contents

In this article, we’ll cover topics of interest for someone interested in a career as a social worker gerontology professional. Keep on scrolling down this page to read each section, or click any link below to go directly to that section.

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Contact us if you have any additional questions or feedback about this end-to-end guide about social worker gerontology and social services for elderly. You can also check out this article: Family, Child & Youth Social Worker Services Guide | All You Need to Know.


What is Gerontology in Social Work? What Does This Really Mean?

Gerontology is defined as the scientific study of old age, the process of aging, and the social, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of growing old.

This is closely related to geriatrics which is a branch of medicine dedicated to treating ailments and diseases in older adults.

A gerontology social worker specializes in working with elderly people to provide guidance and support to improve their quality of life. Gerontological social work is also often called geriatric social work.

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What is a Geriatric Social Worker? What Do They Really Do?

Geriatric social workers and gerontology social workers are very much like other social workers in that they will also assess clients, develop a support and care plan based on that assessment, deploy resources to meet the needs of the client, and work to improve the person’s situation.

The main difference is that those providing social services elderly care will be well versed in the needs of seniors and their families. This takes specialized knowledge to be able to relate to the distinct crises and issues that are faced by those in the later stages of life.

For example, social work with older people often involves dealing with patients that have dementia and diseases like Alzheimer’s. These can take a toll on both the elderly patient and their family, so the aged care social worker will provide comfort, guidance, and resources to help.


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What Qualifications Do You Need to Do Social Work With the Elderly?

For most types of social work, the minimum qualification you need is a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. Some jobs will accept a 4-year degree in a related field, such as psychology.

It does help if you’ve taken some courses in college specifically for a social worker for elderly care. Here are a few examples of college courses for social worker gerontology:

  • Gerontological Social Work
  • Leisure and Aging
  • Medicare and Medicaid Policy Issues
  • Psychology on Aging
  • Perspectives on Aging and the Family

If you want to work in more than entry-level social work elderly care jobs, then you should get a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. This will allow you to take on more responsibility, such as diagnosis and treatment planning, as well as supervisory positions.

National Social Workers Association (NASW) Certifications for a Social Worker for the Elderly

There are three gerontological social work credentials offered by the NASW. The benefit of earning an elderly social worker certification is that it recognizes the person as being knowledgeable about the unique issues that older adults face.

Those providing social care for the elderly should be fluent in policies and social programs that are relevant to older adults. They also need to be familiar with the intricacies of the aging process and the common challenges of the elderly and their caregivers.

Social workers for the elderly can apply for the following gerontological credentials:

  • Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G): Requires a BSW
  • Clinical Social worker in Gerontology (CSW-G): Requires an MSW
  • Advanced Social Worker in Gerontology (ASW-G): Requires an MSW

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The section below covers what you need to know about types of social services for the elderly involved in geriatric social work. Contact us if you have any more questions about this social services elderly guide.


What Are Types of Social Services Elderly Clients Need?

There are several different types of assistance that older adults may need at some point. This can range from companionship to financial help to full-time care for someone that cannot care for themselves.

Social services elderly care workers match available resources and programs to the needs of their older clients. There are many different government and non-profit organizations that provide various types of help to senior citizens.

For example, an aged care social worker might find that an elderly person is on such a limited income that they’re not eating properly. In this case, they might get them signed up for the Meals on Wheels program or a similar program that provides healthy meals to seniors at no cost.

What Are Some Types of Available Social Services for the Elderly?

The available social services the elderly have access to will vary according to their country and the local programs available. But many areas have similar types of services that a social worker for elderly care will be familiar with and refer clients to.

Here are some of the social services for the elderly that are common:

  • Health insurance
  • Food and nutrition
  • Financial assistance
  • Employment assistance
  • Low-cost medications
  • Housing and utility assistance
  • Family caregiver support
  • Free public transit and reduced fare programs
  • Legal services
  • Long-term care assistance

Social workers help to match these social services for the elderly to the needs of a client. Oftentimes, older adults and their families are unaware of the government and non-profit resources that are available to them.


Do you know of specific social services elderly adults can benefit from that we should include on the list above? If so, click here to contact us.


How Do Social Workers Work With the Elderly?

Social work with older adults is focused on helping them improve their quality of life. This can mean intervening in cases of elder abuse, connecting families of seniors to in-home care agencies, or providing referrals to various resources and social services for the elderly.

A gerontology social worker may also assist in determining mental capacity in older adults to guide the family as to the type of care someone may need.

Social work with older people can also mean providing full-time supervision in a home or residential care facility or assisting regularly with companionship and support with household chores.

It’s common for geriatric social workers to care for family emotional needs as much as for the elderly client themselves, especially if that client has a terminal illness or is suffering from issues like dementia.

Main Duties of Geriatric Social Workers

Social work and social services for elderly people will consist of these main duties:

  • Providing Information/Resources: There are many different federal and local social services elderly people have available but know nothing about. A social worker for the elderly will provide information on all the resources available to fill a particular client’s support needs.
  • Counseling: An elderly social worker that’s licensed for clinical work, will often provide counseling for emotional issues. For example, helping someone transition to a full-time care facility or get through the emotional challenges of end-of-life planning.
  • Guidance & Expertise: Things like Medicare insurance forms and filing out healthcare-related legal forms can be confusing. Social work elderly patients often rely on is guidance and expertise to assist them with navigating complicated but important paperwork.
  • Advocate for Seniors: Seniors are one of the biggest groups preyed upon by those running investment and phishing scams. They can also be the victims of elder abuse by a caregiver. Social workers for elderly people can include being an advocate and helping to bring legal action against those that prey on older people.
  • Clinical & Social Intervention: Seniors can often feel isolated and may not want to reach out for help. Social workers for the elderly can provide professional mental health counseling and connect seniors with support groups to encourage more social engagement to improve their quality of life.

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The section below covers the different areas of social worker gerontology. Contact us if you have any more questions about aged care social worker roles and responsibilities.


What Are the Different Areas of Social Work for the Elderly?

Social work for elderly people offers the opportunity to work in many different types of environments. Some social work with the elderly happens in nursing homes, while other social worker gerontology professionals might work in government social services agencies.

If you’ve chosen social care for elderly people as your future profession, here are some of the different places you could work.

Hospice Social Care for Elderly

The aged care social worker in a hospice will be working with those that are terminally ill and nearing the end of their life. The type of social services elderly people need at this time includes emotional support, end-of-life planning assistance, and support for the patient’s loved ones as they go through this stressful time.

Hospital Elderly Social Worker

Elderly care social services provided in hospitals include social worker support for intake assessments, discharge referrals to assisted living or in-home health care services, and more.

During times of medical distress, a social worker for elderly care in a hospital will provide psychological and emotional support, advocate on behalf of the patient, and collaborate with care providers to ensure their needs are being met.

Social Workers in a Nursing Home/Assisted Living Facility

Geriatric social work positions are common in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In this setting, social workers will recommend social services for the elderly that can provide emotional support. A clinical social worker can offer counseling for emotional problems or mental disorders.

Geriatric social work in a nursing home may also include end-of-life care and coordinating at-home help for those being discharged to return to their home or the home of a family member.

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Geriatric Social Work & Social Services for Elderly Adults

Social Workers for Elderly in Government Programs

There are many social services for the elderly run by government organizations that employ social workers.

For example, the Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is a program within Medicare that provides comprehensive medical and social services for the elderly that may be in need of additional support due to a particular condition.

An elderly social worker in a government agency will help explain program resources to seniors and their families and guide them through the process of receiving support.

In-Home Care & Social Services for the Elderly

Some social work with the elderly involves visiting them in their homes. This can include check-up visits to assess how someone is doing and whether they need some type of additional assistance.

A social worker for the elderly doing in-home support will typically be the coordinator of the client’s care team (which can include in-home assistance with living tasks, medical care professionals, etc.)

Counseling/Private Practice Social Work Elderly Care

Some geriatric social workers will go into private practice and specialize in assisting elderly clients and their families with counseling or psychotherapy focused on the challenges that are common with older adults.

Counseling social work for the elderly can include guidance for mental challenges like Alzheimer’s and dementia. This type of geriatric social work may also help families and seniors get through difficult medical or end-of-life challenges.


Conclusion | Social Work and Social Services Elderly People Count On

There is a wide range of social services elderly adults depend on and many seniors would not know about them if it weren’t for geriatric social workers.

Social work elderly people rely on makes an important difference in their quality of life and can be very rewarding for geriatric social workers. As people age, their pool of friends and family can get smaller and social interactions are an important part of overall health and well-being.

Social services for elderly adults and the geriatric social workers that provide them will continue to be in high demand over the next decade as a larger percentage of the population reaches age 65 and beyond.


Social Services Elderly Care Guide – Additional FAQs

What is gerontology in social work?

Gerontology is defined as the scientific study of old age, the process of aging, and the social, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of growing old.

A gerontology social worker specializes in working with elderly people to provide guidance and support to improve their quality of life. Gerontological social work is also often called geriatric social work.

How do social workers work with elderly?

Social work with older adults is focused on helping them improve their quality of life. This can mean intervening in cases of elder abuse, connecting families of seniors to in-home care agencies, or providing referrals to various resources and social services for the elderly.

Social work and social services for elderly people will consist of these main duties:

• Providing Information/Resources
• Counseling • Guidance & Expertise
• Advocate for Seniors
• Clinical & Social Intervention

What are the skills you need to become a social worker?

Social workers need to be empathetic and have a deep desire to help people. Other skills include excellent communication, problem-solving, and the ability to coordinate with other care professionals.

The minimum educational requirement to become a social worker is a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree or a 4-year degree in a related subject. However, many social work positions will require a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

Is social work a good career?

If you have a passion for helping others, then social work can be a good career for you. You have many different options in the type of environment and clients you work with. For example, some social workers provide social services for elderly patients, and others work with children.

Social work continues to be an occupation that is growing at a rate above the average in the U.S., so there are many different employment opportunities available.


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