Caregiving a Major Focus of Aging Meeting

The annual conference of the National Council on Aging and the American Society on Aging drew thousands of participants to Washington, D.C., in late March, including many NASW members and other social workers.

The conference, "Aging in America," gathered about 3,500 professionals in aging. It included hundreds of workshops, plenary sessions, symposia, poster sessions and networking meetings.

Robyn GoldenDuring the conference, Robyn Golden ended her term as chair of the American Society on Aging Board of Directors, and Cynthia Stuen stepped into the position, which she will hold through 2010. Both are social workers and NASW members. Stuen, a former chair of NASW's Specialty Practice Section on Aging, is senior vice president for policy and professional affairs at Lighthouse International.

Stuen told the News that aging issues are becoming increasingly important for American society as baby boomers age. One issue she highlighted is the growing need for a strong workforce to serve the aging. She noted, however, that, "I'm very aware that our workforce in aging is aging," a trend that reflects the findings of NASW's national study of licensed social workers. She also pointed out that the largest discipline within the American Society on Aging is social work.

Stuen said the conference also reflected the theme that "aging is a family affair." A major focus during the event was on caregivers and how to support them, as well as care coordination. "I think that's the challenge for all of us," she said. "We need to look at service delivery across the spectrum."

Social workers meet for lunchtime peer discussion.Social workers meet for lunchtime peer discussion.

The conference included a lunchtime peer-group discussion for social workers. NASW Senior Practice Associate Chris Herman served as a convener of the gathering, along with Kathy Kuhn, director of education and training at the Boston University School of Social Work's Institute of Geriatric Social Work.

Of about 30 people who attended the lunch discussion, Herman said most were practitioners, although academics, students and policy and advocacy social workers also attended.

"It was a lively and engaged group," Herman said. "We touched on many themes that are of concern to social workers in the aging field and discussed challenges and innovations that affect our work."

Before the opening of the conference, Robyn Golden, director of Older Adult Programs at Rush University Medical Center, and Pat Volland, director of the Social Work Leadership Institute at the New York Academy of Medicine, convened a meeting, "Finding Common Ground on Care Coordination." The meeting was called to "discuss the various approaches to coordinating care for older adults as they move through a galaxy of health and social service providers," Golden and Volland explained in an invitational letter. The meeting was scheduled to precede "Capitol Hill Day," which was part of the aging conference.

Herman was among the participants at the care coordination meeting. Participants agreed on a list of action items, and working groups will be established, Herman said.