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Information on this page is for Fall 2020 applicants. If you were admitted prior to Fall 2020 please click here to view information accurate to your curriculum.

Social Work Practice with Older Adults & Families from a Lifespan Perspective

The Social Work Practice with Older Adults & Families from a Lifespan Perspective pathway prepares interprofessional practice students to work with older adults and families to develop skills in using evidence-based interventions and understand the psychosocial development across the lifespan. This pathway focuses on developing skills to assess and intervene to address social, structural, cultural, behavioral and other factors which impact the health and well-being of older adults.

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Examples of career (job) titles and positions relevant to this pathway include but are not limited to:

  • Adult Protective Services Worker
  • Case Manager
  • Community Outreach Coordinator
  • Coordinator of Care (nursing home, long-term care, rehab care and dementia care units)
  • Family Support Coordinator
  • Hospice Care Social Worker
  • Palliative Care Social Worker
  • Policy Advisor
  • Policy Advocate
  • Program Planner

Field Experience

Types of agencies and settings where students in this pathway may engage in field learning:

  • Hospitals

  • Hospice Centers

  • Senior Centers

  • Dementia Care

  • Skilled Nursing Facilities

  • Senior Living Communities

  • Community Based Support Programs

  • Government Agencies

  • Outpatient Health Clinics

  • Substance Abuse Clinics

Program Details

Choose one (3 credits)

  • Adulthood and Aging, 3 credits

Choose one (3 credits)

  • Interpersonal Practice Methods with Aging, 3 credits

  • Frameworks for Understanding Social Impact Organizations, 3 credits (Management and Leadership)

Choose 6 credits from course clusters

  • Cluster Health

    • Behavioral Psychosocial and Ecological Aspects of Health, Mental Health, and Disease, 3 credits (IP)

    • Applied Assessment Skills in Integrated Health, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse, 3 credits (IP)

    • Interpersonal Practice Intervention in Integrated Health, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse (Adult-focused), 3 credits (IP)

    • Advanced Evidence-Informed Interpersonal Practice with Families, 3 credits (IP)

    • Spirituality in Social Work Practice, 3 credit  (IP)

    • Ethical dilemmas in Health, 3 credit  (IP)

    • MH Disorders Adult, 3 credit  (IP)

    • Policies Affecting Older Adults, 1 credit (Hosted in Policy)

  • Cluster Chronic Care Management and End of Life

    • Death, Loss, and Grief, 3 credit  (IP)

    • Psychopharmacology, 1 credit  (IP)

  • Cluster LBGTQ 

    • Counseling and Advocacy with LGBTQIA Clients, 1 credit (IP)

    • Services and Support to Transgender Clients and Communities, 1 credit (IP)

  • Cluster Mental Health

    • Mental Health Disorders in Adulthood, 3 credit  (IP)

    • Religion, Spirituality, Mental Health and Social Work, 3 credit (IP)

    • Intimate Partner Violence, 1 credit (IP)

    • MBCBT with Older Adults, 1 credit (IP)

    • Attachment Theory in Clinical Practice through the Lifespan, 1 credit (IP)

    • Spirituality in Social Work Practice, 3 credits (IP)

  • Cluster Cognitive Impact

    • Families and Dementia, 1 credit

  • Cluster Diversity-Informed Specialized Topics

    • Spiritual and Social Work Practice, 1 credit (IP)

    • Religion, Spirituality, Mental Health and Social Work, 3 credit (IP)

    • Research-informed Practices to Prevent Substance Abuse in Racial and Ethnic Minority Adolescents, 3 credits (IP)

Student Profile
Leah Fein

  • Scholarship:
    Dean’s Scholarship

When Leah Fein was a child, she lived with her grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and her great uncle, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Leah remembers, “They helped me understand the impact of support and autonomy on quality of life for older adults.” In high school, Leah volunteered with older adults at a hospital in Philadelphia and in college, interned with a nursing home transition program. After earning her BSW with a focus on ageing at the University of Pittsburgh, she worked for two years with low-income older adults, arranging in-home services, medical care and hospital and nursing facility discharges.

“I saw the difference it made if someone could age at home rather than in a facility,” Leah says. “I loved the direct practice experience, and I developed reciprocal relationships with my participants, which improved my own knowledge.” Leah wanted to go for her master’s in social work and in public health. “I wanted to be involved in an interdisciplinary team focused on advocating for adults’ self-determination and autonomy towards end of life, while also supporting disease management at home. It’s about your ability to maintain control and maintain a sense of purpose throughout life transitions. Often we take all that away from older adults unnecessarily.”

Leah was able to come to the University of Michigan thanks to a Dean’s Scholarship. “Those donors are the reason I am here at U-M,” Leah declares. “They have empowered me to reach my goals. I knew Michigan Social Work could challenge me and give me opportunities to make a real impact on issues I care about, but without my scholarship I would not have been able to come here. I remember the moment I got the email. I was with a participant. I told him, and he was so happy for me!”

Soon after arriving at our School, Leah had a revelation. “I thought I might focus on macro social work,” she says, “but I missed direct practice. So, I sent out some emails and connected with an older adult in a local nursing facility who needed help with discharge planning, so I have been working with him. It was nice to find out so fast that I needed to maintain my practice. This is one of many reasons Michigan is a great school. There are so many opportunities here! Every experience has added more and more to the person I am. And with this degree I can finally make the difference I want to make. I hope one day I can give back to other students who need support.”

Faculty Pathway Leads

  • Ruth E. Dunkle

    Ruth E. Dunkle

    MSW, PhD

    Clinical gerontology, service delivery to the elderly, the oldest old, coping and service deliver strategies for the elderly, racial and ethnic variations in caregiving to the elderly.
  • Debra K. Mattison

    Debra K. Mattison

    Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work
    Medical social work in a variety of settings (cancer care, palliative care and integrated primary care), integrated healthcare, chronic illness, grief and loss, interprofessional education and spirituality
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