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  • NASW-IL Staff

Older Americans Month 2023: Aging Unbound

Reprinted from National NASW Tips & Tools for Social Workers

By Chris Herman, MSW, LICSW, Senior Practice Associate–Aging

Join NASW in celebrating Older Americans Month (OAM) in May. Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and currently in its 60th year, Older Americans Month acknowledges the contributions and achievements of older adults, highlights important trends, and strengthens our commitment to honoring older people in our communities. The 2023 theme, Aging Unbound, explores the diversity of aging experiences. It also invites us to challenge the dominant narrative on aging by seeking fulfillment as we age.

Visit https://acl.gov/oam/2023/older-americans-month-2023 for materials, activity ideas, and resources to enhance your Older Americans Month celebration. As social workers, we can reflect internally on, and explore with clients, the invitations of OAM 2023:

  • Embrace opportunities for change; try new approaches and activities that bring growth, energy, and joy, without accepting age as an inherently limiting factor.

  • Explore the rewards of growing older, such as insight and confidence; seek ongoing opportunities to increase experience and knowledge.

  • Become or remain engaged in our communities through activities such as volunteering, mentoring, participating in local groups or organizations, or paid employment. We all benefit when each of us is connected and involved.

  • Form and strengthen interpersonal relationships with family (however one defines that), friends, and other members of our communities.

The OAM 2023 theme is congruent with the quality of resilience. As social workers, we can play integral roles in helping our older adult clients enhance their resilience, as described in the NASW Press book Social Work with Older Adults: A Resilience-Enhancing Guide (R. Greene, Dubus, Wright, Cole, Cohen, & N. Greene, 2021), and we can incorporate these techniques in our own lives as we age. As the resilience-enhancing stress model makes clear, however, resilience work does not simply involve changing one’s mindset. Attention to systemic oppression and work to reduce systemic barriers is integral to effective social work practice with older adults.

Thus, in the spirit of both OAM 2023 and social work’s person-in-environment framework, trying new approaches and activities can include fostering self-advocacy or engaging in political or social action. Increasing experience and knowledge can include increasing our understanding of and work to dismantle ableism and ageism, classism, ethnocentrism and racism, oppression against LGBTQIA2S+ people, and other forms of systemic oppression. Community engagement can include sharing experiences in living with a chronic mental health condition or substance use disorder—or learning from older adults who have had such lived experiences.

Recognizing the intersection of Older Americans Month and Mental Health Awareness Month (federal government microsite; NASW Tips and Tools for Social Workers post), NASW has also encouraged social workers to participate in the Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day Symposium, which took place on May 11 and will soon be available on demand. This free, virtual, all-day symposium was sponsored by the National Council on Aging, the Administration for Community Living, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the E4 Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Disparities in Aging at Rush University. NASW served on the steering committee for the event, which included five social work presenters and keynote presenter Montel Williams. (Continuing education credits are not available for on-demand participation in the symposium.) Visit https://connect.ncoa.org/oamhad2023 to register for the on-demand version of the OAMHAD 2023 Symposium.

NASW also recognizes the intersection of OAM with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Month. Another noteworthy intersection is the May 25 anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd. Organizations working to advocate for and support AANHPI older adults include the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging and the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center; those working to advocate for and support Black older adults include the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging. Moreover, racial equity is a primary priority for Justice in Aging. All four organizations participate in the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), of which NASW is a long-standing member. In 2020 and 2021, respectively, LCAO developed a statement on racial injustice and statement condemning hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander older adults. NASW played an instrumental role in developing these statements, the first of their kind for LCAO. These statements remain as relevant in 2023 as they were in preceding years.

Additional events and resources related to OAM follow.


NASW Resources

  • Aging practice microsite—Information hub for practice tools, policy and news updates, and other resources pertinent to social work with older adults (other NASW practice microsites)

  • Code of Ethics—Available online in English and Spanish; ethics microsite includes webinars, information about ethics consultations for NASW members, and other resources

  • Practice standards and guidelines (partial list; standards for long-term care facilities, palliative and end-of-life care, and clinical social work are under revision)

    • Standards for Social Work Case Management

    • Standards for Social Work Practice in Health Care Settings

    • Standards for Social Work Practice with Family Caregivers of Older Adults

    • Standards for Social Work Practice with Clients with Substance Use Disorders

    • Standards for Social Work with Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

    • Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice (with the Association of Social Work Boards, Council on Social Work Education, and Clinical Social Work Association)

    • Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice

  • Aging Specialty Practice Section (SPS)—Optional benefit for NASW members; includes newsletters, webinars, and online forum

  • SPS webinars (on-demand; partial list)

    • Ageism Intersection with Gender and Race and Access to Healthcare Disparities

    • Companion Animals and Healthy Aging

    • Strategies to Support Older Grandparents Raising Adolescent Grandchildren

    • Suicide Among Older Adults: A Durkheimian Perspective

  • Supervisory Leaders in Aging (SLA) Principles—On-demand professional development program, developed and launched with support from the John A. Hartford Foundation; consists of 10 modules, available as a certificate (worth 17 CE credits) or on an individual basis

  • Other professional development resources

    • Chapters—Some offer webinars or conferences; some have committees, special interest groups, or task forces focused on aging–older adults

    • Leadership Summit—Virtual program on June 22, 2023; will also be available on demand; worth up to 12.5 CE credits

    • Social Work Online CE Institute

  • NASW Press publications (partial list)

    • Caregiving and Care Sharing: A Life Course Perspective (2014)

    • Gerontological Social Workers: Helping Older Adults Maximize Their Dignity, Health,and Independence (brochure)

    • Lessons from Abroad: Adapting International Social Welfare Renovations (2022; includes content about services for older adults)

    • Social Work with Older Adults: A Resilience-Enhancing Guide (2021)

    • South Asians in the United States: A Guide for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals (2022; includes content about older adults)

  • Advocacy microsite—Includes information about NASW’s policy and social justice priorities and activities, as well as the Legislative Advocacy Network

  • COVID-19 microsite—Includes information about the Connect to End COVID initiative

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion microsite

  • LGBTQIA2S+ microsite

  • Racial equity microsite

Older Adult-Focused Initiatives in which NASW Participates

  • American College of Surgeons (ACS) Geriatric Surgery Verification (GSV) Program—advisory committee

  • American Society on Aging (ASA)—peer reviewer for annual Aging in America conference

  • CARF International—advisory council

  • Center for Excellence in Assisted Living (CEAL)—advisory council

  • Coalition to Preserve Rehabilitation (CPR)

  • Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA)

  • Friends of the National Institute on Aging (FoNIA)

  • Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Center for Holocaust Survivor Care–Institute on Aging and Trauma (funded by ACL)

  • Jimmo Implementation Council (convened by Center for Medicare Advocacy and supported by the John A. Hartford Foundation)

  • Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO)

  • Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI) (SAGE: Services & Advocacy for LGBTQ+ Elders and Human Rights Campaign Fund)—endorsing organization

  • Medicare Addiction Parity Project Learning Collaborative (convened by the Legal Action Center)

  • Medicare Oral Health Coalition (convened by Families USA)

  • Moving Forward Nursing Home Quality Coalition

  • National Center for State and Tribal Elder Justice Coalitions (NCSTEJC)—advisory committee

  • National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) (funded by ACL and based at the University of Southern California Keck School of America)—advisory board

  • National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging (NCMHA)—executive committee

  • National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (The Consumer Voice)

  • National Medicare Advocates Alliance (convened by the Center for Medicare Advocacy with support from the John A. Hartford Foundation)

  • National Nursing Home Social Work Network (NNHSWN) (based at the University of Iowa School of Social Work)

  • Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day (OAMHAD) Symposium—steering committee

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA)—technical expert panelist to develop the Psychosocial Interventions for Older Adults with Serious Mental Illness guide and review committee for the revision of the Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Treating Substance Use Disorder in Older Adults (Tip 26)

  • World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) (partnership of NCEA and ACL)

  • WEAAD Global Summit (hosted by the National Adult Protective Services Association)—national partner

Aging-Focused Governmental Entities with which NASW Collaborates

  • ACL (includes the Administration on Aging)

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

  • Social Security Administration (SSA)

Other Aging-Focused, Federally Supported Organizations and Resources

  • AGing, Independence, and Disability (AGID) Program Portal (ACL–U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Center for Benefits Access and Benefits CheckUp® (both supported by ACL and managed by the National Council on Aging)

  • Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health in Nursing Facilities (established by SAMHSA in partnership with CMS)

  • Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC)—federal interagency body implemented by ACL

  • Eldercare Locator (supported by ACL and managed by USAging)

  • National Aging Resource Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Minority Seniors—supported by ACL; includes the Asociación Nacional Pro Personas Mayores (ANPPM), the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA), and the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)

  • National Alzheimer's Call Center (supported by ACL and managed by the Alzheimer's Association)

  • National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER) (supported by ACL and managed by Justice in Aging)

  • National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative (NIEJI) (supported by ACL and managed by the International Association for Indigenous Aging)

  • National Institute on Aging (NIA)—consumer-oriented information on health and aging

  • National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (supported by ACL and managed by the Consumer Voice

  • National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (supported by ACL and managed by SAGE)

  • National Resource Centers on Native American Elders—includes Hā Kūpuna: National Resource Center for Native Hawaiian Elders, the National Resource Center for Alaska Native Elders, and the National Resource Center on Native American Aging (all supported by ACL)

  • National Resource Center on Women and Retirement (supported by ACL and managed by the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement)

  • Profile of Older Adults (ACL)

  • Statistical profiles—older adults of color (ACL)

  • U.S. Census Bureau—statistics for OAM 2023

  • U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging


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