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Aging Education: Teaching and Practice Strategies  

Edited by Nieli Langer and Terry Tirrito
College of Social Work, University of South Carolina,
Columbia, South Carolina, United States

University of America Press: New York, New York

Table of Contents

Chapter One
Programs and Services for Older Adults: A National and International Focus
By Terry Tirrito

Chapter Two
Strategies for Teaching Aging Social Welfare Problems and Policies
By Julie Miller-Cribbs

Chapter Three
Teaching the Adult Learner about Mental Health Issues in Aging
By Vicki Murdock

Chapter Four
Families and Aging: Alzheimer's Disease Spousal Caregiver Support Group
By Gil Choi

Chapter Five
An Approach to Teaching Spirituality for Practice with the Older Adult
By Larry P. Ortiz and Melissa B. Littlefield

Chapter Six
Education about Dying, Death, Grief and Loss: Principles and Strategies
By Kenneth J. Doka

Chapter Seven
Act III: Maximizing Choices in Retirement
By Nieli Langer

Chapter Eight
Senior Volunteers: Staying Connected with the Community
By Nina Dubler Katz

Chapter Nine
Elder Abuse: Policy and Training for Law Enforcement Personnel
By Nieli Langer and Tan Kirby Davis

Chapter Ten
Gericare Specialist: An Educational Response to the Elder Home Care Crisis
By Jane M. Cardea, Jane F. McGarrahan and Bernice C. Brennan


Aging Education: Teaching and Practice Strategies is a text that attempts to meet the challenges of providing a teaching tool for the adult educator who teachers and trains students and care providers of the aging population in all the various instructional programs (gerontology/geriatrics degrees) and non-credit workshops currently offered in different settings (hospitals, nursing homes, professional associations, in-service training, etc.). Instruction is the best means for bringing about changes in the way we improve provision and distribution of services to the elderly. Educators need to clearly specify the outcomes or objectives they intend their instruction to accomplish and select and arrange learning experiences that will enhance realization of these objectives. Gerontology instructors and trainers can adapt the methodologies and learning experiences provided in the text to revise stereotypical attitudes, update skills, and gain current information about specific topics in the field of aging studies.

Each chapter in the text addresses a specific topic relevant to the study of the aging population. Each provides state-of-the-art content and resources for instructors in addition to education strategies applicable to the topic. Most of the educational modalities are easily adapted to use with other topics. Each of the chapters is followed by a commentary by the editors who have offered their own professional interpretation of the topic and/or experiential learning experiences.

Chapter One

Home health and community care services are important components of a comprehensive long-term care system. Social workers, geriatric nurses, geriatricians, geropsychiatrists, case managers, and nutritionists are some of the professional practitioners who serve older adults by utilizing the informal and formal support networks to help many older people remain in their own homes and communities. The activities and strategies described in this chapter will support the efforts of educators and practitioners to develop and enhance skills and attitudes that meet the needs of individuals for personal freedom and self-expression while balancing the goals of informal and formal institutions to provide care.

Chapter Two

This chapter explores some of the major problems faced by older persons in the areas of finance, health care, and independent living, and describes policies that address these areas. The multiple teaching strategies are applicable to various sites and levels of service and address the composition and needs of a culturally diverse older population.

Chapter Three

The chapter focuses on training professionals to recognize and help older adults to come to terms with and incorporate age-related changes into how they view themselves and their roles in the world. It provides a discussion of the implications of those mental health problems requiring comprehensive assessment to determine the older person's service needs. Students will learn to be proficient in the use and value of different assessment tools. Placing students in the client's role may sensitize them to the discomfort elders may feel when they are the focus of the interview. This format is effective in building competent interview skills and learning appropriate ways of asking questions in different cultural settings. The chapter provides numerous strategies that can be revised to accommodate many levels and learning needs.

Chapter Four

Although changes have occurred in the American family, the family is the basic support system for most older Americans. The type of family support an older person receives depends to a great extent on his/her family situation - whether married, widowed, separated, divorced, never married, has living children, is living alone, living with adult children, or living with other relatives. The chapter explores the physical and emotional challenges faced by spouses who provide care to their partners suffering from Alzheimer's disease. An educational intervention model is presented that provides for the behavioral and emotional needs of care providers.

Chapter Five

Spiritual well-being is the affirmation of life in a relationship with God, self, community, and environment that nurtures and celebrates wholeness. From this perspective people can be spiritual without being religious. The spiritual dimensions of health have been examined and some practitioners view spiritual well-being as very important to an older person's physical and mental health. As an increasing number of older adults live longer lives, there has been increased interest in including spirituality in the bio-psycho-social model of assessment and treatment of the problems they encounter. This chapter reviews terms relating to the concept of spirituality and offers a spirituality mini-assessment protocol that may be used by social service and health care providers who work with older adults. This type of assessment protocol can be used to help older adults identify their individual sources of spirituality that empower them to provide meaningful interpretations of their lives.

Chapter Six

As human beings we grieve our own personal losses. As professionals working in social service/health care positions, we encounter terminally ill patients and their families experiencing a variety of emotions and feelings during the progression of an illness and impending loss. The chapter provides sensitively designed educational strategies designed to help students and practitioners reach a conscious awareness of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and values associated with dying, death, grief, and loss.

Chapter Seven

The concept of retirement as we've known it is obsolete. Across the nation, millions of older active Americans are retiring old notions of what it means to be retired. The combined effect of the senior boom and the birth dearth in America is creating a senior population of retirees who, with the gift of longevity and the added years it brings, are rethinking and revitalizing their lives. They are reinventing retirement - trying new careers, launching new businesses, volunteering, and returning to school while simultaneously taking stock of their social, financial, and health care needs. This chapter is primarily concerned with how the retirement counselor can address the major concerns facing older adults in stages of pre-retirement and retirement.

Chapter Eight

Retired elders are often discussed as a great sea of untapped volunteers. Studies have shown that older volunteers can be counted on to perform will on an ongoing basis. However, how to motivate volunteers who sincerely wish to commit to either rigid or flexible schedules of volunteer activities will require the types of adult learning strategies that are described in this chapter.

Chapter Nine

Law enforcement and criminal justice professionals need to be key players in every community's effort to prevent and address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. But in order for law enforcement and criminal justice professionals to coordinate their efforts, the elder abuse network needs to partner with them to develop appropriate training and technical assistance. This chapter provides resources and strategies that are currently in place to maximize law enforcement participation in these efforts.

Chapter Ten

This chapter describes the strategies for training marginally employable individuals, particularly disenfranchised homemakers and minority or economically disadvantaged women, as providers of professional in-home care of medically-frail or physically/mentally challenged elder clients unable to manage independent living activities. Competencies in communication, assessment, observation, personal care, and management skills enable these individuals to function as both a companion and a caregiver to an older person living at home. The systematic creation of a new paraprofessional health care provider will infuse the current inadequate cadre of personnel willing and able to provide services to an ever-growing number of older adults.


To the extent that this book advances teachers', students', and practitioners' capacity to understand and serve the elderly by providing imaginative and thought-provoking teaching and practice strategies for adult learners, we believe that we may contribute to the quality of life and care of older persons. Aging patients and clients can reap the benefit from professionals who have had teaching experiences that encourage personal change and offer opportunities to develop cognitive abilities and skills useful in problem solving situations relevant to older adult needs.

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