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March is National Professional Social Work Month and this year’s theme, “Social Work Matters”, seeks to showcase the impact of more than 642,000 professional social workers in America. I would like to take a moment and share with you some information from the National Association of Social Workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the country due to an increased need for health and aging related services, as well as child, family and school-based supports.  From 1931 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jane Addams to 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowe, social workers have been instrumental in achieving civil rights and human rights advances in the United States and across the globe for more than a century.

“The graying of America” has been a popular phrase in recent years as the number of older people continues to grow. Statistics project that by 2030, Americans 65 and older will actually outnumber their younger counterparts. With the aging of the “baby boomer” generation and the lengthening of life spans, both the number and proportion of older people are rapidly increasing. Many of the health related problems that contributed to decreased life span have been combated. Yet, this same achievement presents new challenges in meeting the social, environmental, psychological, economic and health care needs of older adults.

These shifting demographics have created a greater demand for professionals with specialized knowledge and expertise in aging. Social work is unique among the health and mental health professions in that it considers the physical, mental, and social aspects of individuals—an approach that is critical to providing services to older adults and their families.

Gerontological social workers, who make up about 5% of the nation’s half a million social workers, can help older adults and their families maintain well-being, overcome problems and achieve maximum potential during later life. Social workers serve as “advocates” for older people, providing a vital link between older individuals and the services they need. Indeed, a key function of gerontological social workers is to promote independence, autonomy and dignity.

Social workers provide services in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, adult day health centers, independent and assisted living communities, public agencies and increasingly, in people’s homes.

Here are some of the ways we will be celebrating Social Work Month here at Aviv:
We will enjoy a Podcast – “What LICSW’s Need to Know About Section 12”
Jen Decker, an elder care mediator, will be speaking about the art of listening
Mary Crowe, LICSW, from Hospice of the North Shore and Greater Boston, will present: Caring for Yourself – How to Prevent Burnout
We will view a film entitled “Beyond Kubler Ross” which gives new perspectives on death and dying
Laurie Grant, who is a specialist in hoarding, has created a short DVD entitled “Hoarding 101” which we will watch and discuss

I would like to take this moment to thank Aviv Centers for Living for recognizing that social work really does matter. We recognize the strong connection between body and mind as evidenced in our integration of social work services throughout Aviv.