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Article

Lynn McDonald

Retirement is a modest social institution that appeared in most industrialized nations near the start of the 20th century. The aim of retirement was to solve the societal dilemma of an increasingly aged labor force by moving older workers systematically out of their jobs so as to not cause them financial harm (Atchley, 1980, p. 264). Although retirement has been considered benign since its inception, the history of retirement indicates that it is one of the main progenitors of ageism in society today (Atchley, 1982, 1993; Haber & Gratton, 1994; McDonald, 2013; Walker, 1990). Retirement and its accompanying stereotypes have been used as a tool for the management of the size and composition of the labor force contingent on the dictums of current markets in any given historical era. Ever-changing ideologies about older adults that extend from negative to positive ageism have been utilized by business, government, the public, and the media to support whatever justification is required in a particular era, with little thought to the harm perpetrated on older adults. Unfortunately, society has subscribed to these justifications en masse, including older adults themselves. In this article the ageism embedded in retirement is examined to make what is implicit explicit to social work practitioners and policymakers in the field of aging.

Article

Patricia Brownell

Older workers make important contributions to the workplace, its productivity, and its culture. Work remains important for older adults for financial security, to give meaning to later life, to maintain social networks, and to promote lifelong learning. However, ageist beliefs about the capacity of older adults to remain productive and contributing workers in the workforce can create barriers for older workers. Understanding how older workers experience ageist behavior in the workplace can help employers, policy makers, and social workers learn more about how to address this social problem. Organizations can become more age friendly through enabling workplace programs, supportive management, and proactive human resource managers. Social workers serving older adults in employee assistance programs and in private practice can help them to challenge ageism in the workplace. Finally, legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects the rights of older workers; however, more legislation is needed to address bullying and harassment of older adults in the workplace.

Article

Despite the significant life and work experiences that a growing number of older adults have to contribute to the workforce, pervasive ageism operates in overt and covert ways to discriminate against older workers in hiring and workplace practices. This article provides a current overview of definitions, prevalence, types, and effects of ageism in the U.S. workplace. For social workers counseling older adult victims of workplace ageism, this article discusses theories, foundational knowledge, and ongoing self-awareness and training needed for bias awareness. Counseling strategies and resources are highlighted, including coping and resilience strategies to counteract ageist stereotypes and discrimination, facilitate job-seeking support, and advocate for older workers by promoting awareness and serving as a resource for employers to reduce workplace ageism.

Article

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

As individuals age, their physical community continues to be a primary entry point of intervention because of their attachment to place, social connections, and limited mobility to travel as far and as often as they would like or desire. The environment provides a context for understanding an older adult’s social interactions and the availability of and access to supportive services that reduce isolation and increased risk for reduced health status. When individuals age in place, social workers need to understand how community-based services can work with older adults in their community where they have lived for some time and have developed social networks. This knowledge will better assist social workers in their ability to effectively connect clients with appropriate resources. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an older adult’s environment to not reflect or adapt to their changing health status and physical mobility. Healthy aging (also referred to as age-friendly) and NORC (naturally occurring retirement communities) initiatives have emerged as examples of how to provide supportive, community-based services that will enable older adults to remain engaged in their community as they experience changes in their health status, mobility, and financial security. These community-level interventions emphasize the adaptability to an older adult’s changing lifestyle factors that influence how they navigate their community. These initiatives engage older adults in planning and implementing strategies to connect older adults with services and activities that promote aging in place. Social workers play a very important role in the provision of community-based aging services because they can serve as a bridge between older adults and the local, state, and federal level programs that may be available to them.

Article

Nancy R. Hooyman and Amanda Barusch

The rapidly growing older population is more heterogeneous than any other age group. Although many face vulnerabilities and inequities as they age, most are resilient. This entry explores the “greying of America,” examines the definition and measurement of aging, reviews the diversity among older adults in the United States, discusses productive, successful, and active aging, and suggests leadership roles for social workers in enhancing the well-being of elders and their families.

Article

Nancy Morrow-Howell and Leslie Hasche

Despite high levels of functioning among older adults, chronic health conditions lead to impairment and the need for help. Family members provide most of the assistance; yet formal services such as in-home personal and homemaker services, congregate and home-delivered meals, adult day services, employment and educational services, transportation, nursing homes, assisted and supportive living facilities, legal and financial services, and case management are available. Even with the growing number and type of services, unequal access and uneven quality persist. In these settings, social workers develop and administer programs, provide clinical care, offer case management and discharge planning, and contribute to policy development.

Article

This entry focuses on the transition to independent living process required of youth and young adults who are “aging out” of the foster care system. It addresses the multiple risks and challenges faced by young people who are aging out of care and those of young adults who have “aged out.” This entry addresses existing policies and programs intended to assist youth who are transitioning from care. Current research findings about the experience of these youth over time both prior to and after exiting foster care are presented. Finally, the unique risks and challenges faced by as well as existing resources for LGBTQ youth who are in the process of or who have aged out are presented as an exemplar of unique needs and experiences of youth from vulnerable populations. Attention is also given to the strengths and resiliency of many former foster care youth who successfully make the transition from foster care to independent living.

Article

As a result of rising life expectancies, America’s older population is itself aging. The U.S. Census Bureau projections suggest that, by the middle of the 21st century, more than 40% of Americans aged 65 and older can expect to live to at least the age of 90. Although the oldest-old (often defined as persons ages 80 and older or those ages 85-plus) is a diverse population, advanced old age is associated with a greater risk of experiencing economic hardship, disabling illnesses or health conditions, and social isolation. A growing public policy challenge will be ensuring the economic well-being, the health, and the dignity of society’s very oldest citizens.

Article

Gunnar Almgren and Ji Young Kang

This entry provides a brief overview of the field of social demography, the components of population change, projections for future population growth, and recent transformations in population composition pertaining to age, race, and ethnicity. Trends that shape family household structure (for example, marriage, divorce, cohabitation, and nonmarital child bearing) are also considered, as are trends pertaining to the distribution of income, wealth, and poverty. Population trends given particular attention include the growth of class-based disparities in marriage and nonmarital child bearing, the contributions of immigration to population growth and diversity, and a disturbing increase over recent decades in the prevalence of poverty among children of immigrants.

Article

Eric R. Kingson, Dana Bell, and Sarah Shive

This entry examines why our nation’s Social Security system was built, what it does, and what must be done to maintain and improve this foundational system for current and future generations. After a discussion of the social insurance approach to economic security and its underlying principles and values, the evolution of America’s Social Security system is reviewed—beginning with the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, through its incremental development, to the changed politics of Social Security since the mid-1990s. Next, program benefits and financing are described and contemporary challenges and related policy options are identified, in terms of both the program’s projected shortfall and the public’s need for expanded retirement, disability, and survivorship protections. The entry concludes by noting that social workers have an important role to play in shaping Social Security’s future.

Article

Daniel S. Gardner and Caroline Rosenthal Gelman

Minority and immigrant elders constitute a greater proportion of the population than ever before and are the fastest growing segment of the older population. Within these racial and ethnic groups there is considerable variation with regard to age, gender, country of origin, language, religion, education, income, duration of U.S. residency, immigration status, living arrangements, social capital, and access to resources. The authors summarize research on older adults regarding racial and ethnic disparities, barriers to health and social service utilization, and dynamics of family caregiving. Implications are offered for social-work practice, policy, and research.

Article

School age children are negotiating numerous developmental tasks across distinct lines of development. Social workers recognize that this development is taking place within the context of culture and systems and are oriented toward assisting the most vulnerable members of society. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are connected to later in life health risk behaviors and serious medical, mental health, and substance abuse problems. The social work profession is poised to work comprehensively in supporting healthy child development and intervening when development has been derailed by ACEs. This builds human capital, which is profitable to society.

Article

Mona Wasow

Martin B. Loeb (1913–1983), a leader in social work education and gerontology, was director of the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin (1965–1973) and founding director of the McBeath Institute on Aging and Adult Life (1973–1980).

Article

Ramona W. Denby and Allison Bowmer

The notion of culture, while vast, is often conceptualized through an examination of gender, race, and ethnicity; class and economics; religion; sexual orientation; and even age. Social work assessments and related interventions rest on a fundamental understanding of a client’s history, environment, and current conditions. This article provides an examination of how particular sociocultural influences and identity development shape behavior and how social work practitioners—whether at the micro, mezzo, or macro level—use this understanding to effect change in individuals or environments.

Article

Maryann Syers

Abraham Epstein (1892–1942) was an economist, educator, and writer. He was a leader in the post-World War I movement for passage of social security legislation. In 1927 he founded the American Association for Old Age Security (later the American Association for Social Security).

Article

Ski Hunter

Various models and theories of adult development exist but they are more assumptions about development than theories. The most popular age and stage theories have lost favor to contextual theories that put more emphasis on interaction with the environment. It has also become recognized that adults are a diverse group and do not follow universal stages of development. The usefulness of chronological age is also questionable as it does not tell us much about any particular person. Instead, we have to know their concerns and the events they are dealing with, and their dreams and aspirations.

Article

Patricia A. Fennell and Sara Rieder Bennett

There is a paradigm shift occurring in medicine, from models focused on treating acute illnesses to those concerned with managing chronic conditions. This shift coincides with the higher prevalence of chronic illnesses resulting from factors such as lower mortality from formerly fatal illnesses and an aging population. The chronically ill do not fare well in an acute care model, and as a result, it has become imperative to develop new models effective for these chronic conditions. These new care models will require comprehensive, coordinated case management, an activity in which social workers can play a significant role.

Article

Jeanette C. Takamura

Public policy advances in the field of aging in the United States have lagged compared to the growth of the older adult population. Policy adjustments have been driven by ideological perspectives and have been largely incremental. In recent years, conservative policy makers have sought through various legislative vehicles to eliminate or curb entitlement programs, proposing private sector solutions and touting the importance of an “ownership society” in which individual citizens assume personal responsibility for their economic and health security. The election of a Democratic majority in the U.S. House and the slim margin of votes held by Democrats in the U.S. Senate may mean a shift in aging policy directions that strengthens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, if the newly elected members are able to maintain their seats over time. The results of the 2008 presidential election will also determine how the social, economic, and other policy concerns will be addressed as the baby boomers join the ranks of older Americans.

Article

Housing  

Tracy M. Soska

Housing, especially homeownership and affordable housing, remains essential to the American Dream but also among our most challenging social issues, particularly given the collapse of the housing market in the early 21st century. Housing and affordable housing are inextricably linked to both our national economic crisis and our wavering social policies. Housing is both symptomatic of and a catalyst for overarching social and economic issues, such as poverty, economic and educational inequality, and racial disparities, and it remains an unmet need for a significant portion of our population, such as the elderly, disabled, victims of abuse, those aging out of child welfare, veterans, ex-offenders, and others who encounter unique difficulties and lack of supportive services and service coordination. Advancing comprehensive and coordinated housing policies and programs remains important for social work and in the struggle for decent and affordable housing for all.