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Mental Health and Older Adults  

Hee Yun Lee, William Hasenbein, and Priscilla Gibson

As the older adult population continues to grow at a rapid rate, with an estimated 2.1 billion older adults in 2050, social welfare researchers are determined to fill the shortage of gerontological social workers and structural lag to best serve the baby boomers who are expected to need different services than previous generations. Mental illness impacts over 20% of older adults in the world and the United States. The major mental health issues in older adults include depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation. Depression is considered one of the most common mental health issues among this population; however, the prevalence could be underestimated due to older adults linking relevant symptoms to other causes, such as old age, instead of as possible depression. Like depression, anxiety symptoms are often mistaken as results of aging. It is also difficult for providers to diagnose anxiety in this population due to anxiety frequently being coupled with other illnesses and the psychological stress that comes with old age. Because the presence of loneliness or social isolation can manifest depression and anxiety symptoms in older adults, it is also difficult to separate these two issues. With the anticipated increase of the older adult population within the next few years, measurement tools have been created to assess depression and anxiety specifically for older adults. In addition to adapting assessment tools, interventions tailored to older adults are essential to ensure treatment coherence, even though medications are the go-to treatment option.

Article

Mental Illness: Adults  

Catherine N. Dulmus and Albert R. Roberts

This entry focuses on serious mental illness among adults, including those having serious and persistent mental illness. Social work's historic and current roles in service delivery are reviewed, its present trends in the field (including the recovery movement, evidence-based practices, comorbidity, and the integration of physical and mental health), as well as the service delivery system and the current needs and challenges it faces, are discussed.

Article

Pension and Retirement Programs  

Robert B. Hudson

In the American retirement income picture, private pensions occupy a critical but underused place. Roughly one-half of Americans do not have private pension coverage, and those who do not tend to be concentrated in the lower levels of the overall income distribution. Pension coverage and adequacy are reviewed here as is the place of private pensions in assuring income adequacy in old age. Pressures on Social Security and “traditional” pensions will make the place of defined contribution (401k-type plans) increasingly important to older individuals, including social workers.

Article

Positive Emotion  

Jessica M. Black

Scientific findings from social sciences, neurobiology, endocrinology, and immunology highlight the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity to both mental and physical health. Positive activity, such as engagement with music and exercise, can also contribute to favorable health outcomes. This article reviews scientific evidence of the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity throughout the life course, with examples drawn from the fetal environment through late adulthood. Specifically, the text weaves together theory and empirical findings from an interdisciplinary literature to describe how positive emotion and activity help to build important cognitive, social, and physical resources throughout the life course.

Article

Retirement  

Philip McCallion and Lisa A. Ferretti

The definition of retirement has become increasingly complex. Freedom from work, autonomy, and the pursuit of new interests are mediated by a sense of loss of value when employment ends, by the resource picture in retirement, and by the likelihood that current and boomer retirees are likely to spend more years in retirement. The viability of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and pensions is also of influence, and stereotypes of carefree years are thwarted by caregiving responsibilities and avoided by those continuing to seek fulfilling roles. Finally the experience of retirement continues to be different for important groups in society.

Article

Social Work in Moldova  

Vadim Moldovan, Eugeniu Rotari, Vadim Tarna, and Alina Zagorodniuc

The Republic of Moldova is a small post-Soviet country that has been “transitioning” from a socialist to capitalist economy since the 1990s. Once a prosperous region of the Soviet Union, it is now among the poorest countries in Europe, facing many social problems that call for a strong social work profession. However, social work is new to the country and the profession is challenged by low societal status, meager resources, and lack of cohesion. Social work in Moldova is struggling to meet these challenges with the help from the West and the emergence of an indigenous model of professionalization. Child welfare, elder care, mental health, as well as the history of social work in Moldova, current state of social work education with its obstacles to and opportunities for progress will be discussed.

Article

Stress Effects on Health  

Paula S. Nurius and Charles P. Hoy-Ellis

Evolving understandings of stress have literally transformed how we think about health as contextualized within complex and multilevel transactions between individuals and their environment. We present core concepts of stress through the lens of life-course and life-span perspectives, emphasizing appraisal-based and biobehavioral models of stress response systems. We describe theories of allostatic load, embodiment, epigenetics, weathering processes, and accelerated aging that operationalize mechanisms through which stress affects health and contributes to health disparities. In addition to social determinant and life-span developmental perspectives on stress and health, we emphasize the value of health-promotive factors that can serve to buffer stress effects. Social work has important roles in targeting health-erosive stress from “neurons to neighborhoods”.