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Build a competent social work workforce to meet the needs of a diverse aging society.

As the aging population grows larger, it will also grow more diverse, reflecting the demographic changes in the U.S. population as a whole over the last several decades. This vulnerable demographic has a high level of service needs, and will require more professionals who have specialized skills in working with the elderly. Thus, there is an increasing need for social workers who have been trained in the biological, social, and psychological functioning in later life.


  • Every student in the Michigan School of Social Work will have exposure to issues related to the aging population, and knowledge on how to address these issues.
  • A critical mass of professional social workers will be trained to serve older adults and their families.

Goal and Objectives

The overall goal of the Gerontology Learning Community (GLC) is to increase awareness of the diverse aging population within the United States and globally, while promoting specialized skills that are necessary for building a competent social work workforce to meet aging people’s needs.

In response to the increasing need for serving the elderly population, the Gerontology Learning Community has formulated four objectives that will guide the community’s practice and dedication to the field of social work.

Enhance aging training and research activities

The Gerontology Learning Community (GLC) works to enhance training in the field of aging within the University and School of Social Work through multiple ways. For example, the GLC administers the Specialist in Aging Certificate that offers students and practitioners the opportunity to develop individualized programs of interdisciplinary graduate study for academic credit in gerontology. The GLC is also working to offer an adapted version of the current integrative aging seminar required of Geriatric Scholars to all social work students having an interest in working in settings that serve older persons, as well as mini-courses focusing on cross-professional knowledge and advanced skills training. This learning community has also identified global learning opportunities, and working to develop them. The GLC augments the annual Winkelman Lecture, hosts alumni lecture series, and organizes annual forums involving doctoral and MSW students, faculty and social work practitioners.

Facilitate mutual learning among consortium agencies

The GLC has worked to maintain a consortium of agencies that provide placements for gerontology students. In an effort to keep these agencies connected, the GLC has sponsored a fall event in past years that brings together agencies, gerontology faculty, current geriatric scholars, and other students concentrating in aging.

Strengthen education and research linkages between SSW and communities

Doctoral and MSW students as well as faculty enhance their learning experiences by partnering with social service agencies in Southeast Michigan. These agencies are committed to developing communities that improve the quality of life and wellbeing of seniors living throughout Michigan as well as training practitioners and researchers in this area of care. Students have the opportunity to conduct needs assessments and evaluation services for their agency to further enrich their learning experience. Additionally, the GLC strengthens education linkages between the SSW and larger communities by involving MSW and PhD graduates in current educational events.

Improve marketing of the gerontology program

Marketing efforts of the program include the dissemination of information about career opportunities in the field of aging, including launching an annual Careers in Aging event within the UMSSW.

  • Community-Based Intervention for Late Life Depression in Urban China—This project involves collaboration with community centers of two urban neighborhoods in Hangzhou China and Zheijiang University of China. We trained community workers to collaborate with primary care physicians to provide education about and screen for depression in the community, connect elders screened positive with treatment, provide care management to depressed elders and support their integration into the community.
  • Retaining Identity-Creativity Intervention for Caregivers—Through the use of creative expression, this program is designed to alleviate caregiver stress and retain his/her sense of self. It involves collaboration with Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center, UM School of Arts and Design and UM School of Public Health.

Participating Faculty

  • Susan K. Crabb

    Susan K. Crabb

    Field Educator and LEO Lec IV
    Children and youth, mental health and community organization
  • Leslie J. Dubin

    Leslie J. Dubin


    LEO Adjunct Lecturer, University of Michigan School of Social Work

    Social Worker, University of Michigan Health System

  • 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.
  • Lydia W. Li

    Lydia W. Li

    Professor of Social Work
    Depression and suicide in later life, rural elders, cross-cultural gerontology, ageism, community-based interventions.
Full faculty list »

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