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School of Social Policy & Practice’s Penn Aging Concentration
September 15, 2009, Volume 56, No. 03

The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) is launching a program in working with older adults, with the help of a two-year, $10,000 grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation and a matching $10,000 contribution from a donor.

As one of 16 schools to receive this grant, SP2 has created the Penn Aging Concentration, or PAC, designed to develop a new cadre of professionally prepared social workers in geriatric social work practice at the clinical, program, administrative and policy-making levels who will be able to address the needs of the nation’s aging population.

“By 2020, Pennsylvania’s population of persons 60 years and older is expected to reach more than 25%, and Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation in the percentage of older people,” Dr. Zvi Gellis, associate professor and director of the Center for Mental Health & Aging, said. “Nationally, there will be an estimated 70 million Americans 65 years and older. Thus, preparing a new generation of social work students specializing in geriatrics is crucial.”

“Changing demographics and the aging ‘Baby Boom’ generation will present new challenges and opportunities,” Dr. Richard Gelles, dean of the School, said. “There will be enormous growth in career opportunities for our graduates who will be prepared to work with the millions of Americans 65 years of age and older.”

PAC will provide graduate students with an intensive hands-on experience in their advanced year of study, as well as enhanced field placements, electives in aging policy and practice and multi-disciplinary, multi-agency rotating field seminars, along with a stipend in addition to their existing financial-aid package.

“Our experience is that, when students have the opportunity to work with older adults, they find they love the work,” Dr. Joan Davitt, assistant professor and co-investigator, said. “This funding will provide students with both incentives to enter this burgeoning field and the critical training and knowledge to be the future leaders in gero-social work practice.”

The PAC program is a collaboration between instructors, gerontology experts and the School’s field-placement agencies. Anne Weiss, the School’s director of field placement, is also a co-investigator on the grant.

Interviews are scheduled to take place in the spring, and the ideal size of each cohort will be approximately 10 students. The first cohort will enter the program in the fall of 2010.

Currently registered MSW students who have completed all first-year requirements and advanced placement students will be eligible to apply for the PAC program.


Almanac - September 15, 2009, Volume 56, No. 03