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Special Project on Older Adults

Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work

Suggested assignments for an HBSE course all involve direct interaction with older adults – whether as individuals, partners, small or large groups. Students are to design their own project interacting with elders. This document provides guidelines for students’ designing personalized interactions and writing up their experiences at each phase of the project process.


The “older adult” population has become a significant percentage of the population in the U.S with the first members of the baby-boomer generation now in their early 60’s and more people living into their 90’s and 100’s. As this population grows in numbers, variations in physical, social and psychological status will expand as well. Yet older adults are often thought of as “past their prime” and “sickly.” Social workers will be needed to work with this expanding group and younger social workers often do not want to work with older people because of society’s negative images or their personal experiences with older relatives.

A BEL grant from the Council on Social Work Education Gero-Ed Center (National Center for Gerontological Social Work Education), has provided support to enhance the content on older adults into Human Behavior in the Social Environment (HBSE) course. A specific teaching module has being developed, which includes readings, lectures, and audio-visual materials about older adults. The BEL grant also requires the incorporation of an experiential activity directly with older adults. This special project within the HBSE course is designed to provide material and experiences that will expand students’ knowledge of the older adult population. HBSE has been designated as the special project so that students have this experience prior to their volunteer experience in Methods I and their application for a senior year field placement.

Organization of the Project

To accommodate their varying interests and schedules, students can design their particular interactions with older adults. Examples are a life history interview, becoming involved in group activities with older adults, and creating special projects with older adults around particular topics such as health literacy. Students are encouraged to choose activities that are new experiences that can serve as an introduction to working with older adults or expand previous experiences. For students that already have direct experiences with older adults, the options allow them to choose a different type of experience and/or an experience that is “outside of one’s comfort zone.”

In order to complete this project within the HBSE course, it is presented at the beginning of the course. The major component of this project is the requirement of a face-to-face experience with an older adult or a group of older adults.

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