Competencies and Challenges in Working with Older Adults

By: Hongmei Tong   Anna Azulai   Kathaleen Quinn   Jennifer Hewson   Christine A. Walsh   Paula Cornell  

Older adults (65+ years) are the fastest growing population group in Canada, projected to reach 25% of the population by 2030. Given this dramatic demographic shift, there is a critical need for trained practitioners from disciplines such as social work. In spite of this, there is scant research on gerontological social workers in Canada. This study aims to address this gap by exploring the perspectives of social workers about competencies, challenges, and recommendations for education and training to enhance practice with older adults.This mixed methods study includes an online survey sent to all registered social workers in Alberta, Canada through the Alberta College of Social Workers, the regulatory body of the social work profession in Alberta. Data collection also includes individual semi-structured interviews and a World Café with social workers at a symposium at MacEwan University, Edmonton, Alberta. Quantitative data is statistically analysed using IBM SPSS software. Qualitative data is analyzed for themes using a constant comparison approach. This study presents findings from the online survey (N=57), individual semi-structured interviews (N=12), and the Word Café (N=40).The findings provide both a broad scope and an in-depth understanding of the competencies, challenges, and recommendations from a social work lens for practicing with older adults. The findings of the study shed light on the current and future needs of gerontological social work in Alberta which help to inform the development of university courses and certificates as well as professional development opportunities.

Gerontological Education, Gerontological Social Work, Aging, Older Adults
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Hongmei Tong

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health and Community Studies, MacEwan University, Canada

Anna Azulai

Assistant Professor, MacEwan University , Canada

Kathaleen Quinn

Assistant Professor, MacEwan University, Canada

Dr. Jennifer Hewson

University of Calgary

Dr. Christine A. Walsh

University of Calgary

Paula Cornell

Instructor, MacEwan University, Canada