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Larry E. Davis, John M. Wallace Jr., and Trina R. Williams Shanks
African Americans have been a part of the nation's history for nearly four hundred years. Although their history includes the forced imposition of chattel slavery, the strict enforcement of legal segregation, and a tenuous acceptance as equal citizens, African Americans have been, and continue to be, major contributors, creators, investors, and builders of America. In this article we summarize briefly the history of African Americans, we examine racial disparities in key indicators of social, mental, and physical well-being, and we highlight persistent strengths that can be built upon and areas that provide hope for the future. The challenge for social work is to simultaneously celebrate the historical successes and ongoing contributions of African Americans to this country while also recognizing the vestiges of structural racism and fighting for greater civil rights and social and economic justice.
Sharon E. Moore
African Americans number about 35 million or 12% of the U.S. population. Their life expectancy is lower than that of White Americans, and despite the educational gains made since mid-1980s, the unemployment gap between African Americans and Whites has increased. Similarly, although the number of African Americans working in white-collar occupations has increased, the disparity in wage earnings between African American and White workers continues. Regardless of social class African Americans are made to be cognizant of their race at all times. Today they are still at risk for social issues such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, poverty, high rates of female headed households, infant mortality that is twice as high as Whites, residential segregation, racism, and discrimination. As daunting as these problems are, the strengths of the African American community have allowed it to thrive even amid arduous circumstances.
Older workers make important contributions to the workplace, its productivity, and its culture. Work remains important for older adults for financial security, to give meaning to later life, to maintain social networks, and to promote lifelong learning. However, ageist beliefs about the capacity of older adults to remain productive and contributing workers in the workforce can create barriers for older workers. Understanding how older workers experience ageist behavior in the workplace can help employers, policy makers, and social workers learn more about how to address this social problem. Organizations can become more age friendly through enabling workplace programs, supportive management, and proactive human resource managers. Social workers serving older adults in employee assistance programs and in private practice can help them to challenge ageism in the workplace. Finally, legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects the rights of older workers; however, more legislation is needed to address bullying and harassment of older adults in the workplace.
Retirement is a modest social institution that appeared in most industrialized nations near the start of the 20th century. The aim of retirement was to solve the societal dilemma of an increasingly aged labor force by moving older workers systematically out of their jobs so as to not cause them financial harm (Atchley, 1980, p. 264). Although retirement has been considered benign since its inception, the history of retirement indicates that it is one of the main progenitors of ageism in society today (Atchley, 1982, 1993; Haber & Gratton, 1994; McDonald, 2013; Walker, 1990). Retirement and its accompanying stereotypes have been used as a tool for the management of the size and composition of the labor force contingent on the dictums of current markets in any given historical era. Ever-changing ideologies about older adults that extend from negative to positive ageism have been utilized by business, government, the public, and the media to support whatever justification is required in a particular era, with little thought to the harm perpetrated on older adults. Unfortunately, society has subscribed to these justifications en masse, including older adults themselves. In this article the ageism embedded in retirement is examined to make what is implicit explicit to social work practitioners and policymakers in the field of aging.
Irwin Epstein and Stephen A. Kapp
This entry reviews agency-based research and the unique demands created by the organizational context where this activity resides. Three primary stakeholder groups are identified: administrators and program managers, supervisors, and direct service workers and clinicians. Possible uses of agency-based research by each of the respective stakeholder groups are described. Finally, the role of service consumers in agency-based research is discussed.
Nancy R. Hooyman
The rapidly growing older population is more heterogeneous by health and economic status, gender, race, sexual orientation, and family and living arrangements than any other age group. Although many adults face vulnerabilities and inequities as they age, most elders are resilient. This entry reviews this diversity, discusses concepts of productive, successful, and active aging, and suggests leadership roles for social workers in enhancing the well-being of elders and their families.
Lenard W. Kaye
Social workers address older adult issues at all levels of service planning, policy-making, and delivery and across a wide range of community and institutional settings. While various models of practice intervention with older adults exist, more recently the focus is on the integration of micro and macro strategies with an emphasis on strength-based perspectives to geriatric social work practice. The older adult population will expand dramatically and become increasingly culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse in the future and social work services will need to be sensitive to the variety of issues faced by a more heterogeneous and sophisticated older adult population.
Jeanette C. Takamura
Public policy advances in the field of aging in the United States have lagged compared to the growth of the older adult population. Policy adjustments have been driven by ideological perspectives and have been largely incremental. In recent years, conservative policy makers have sought through various legislative vehicles to eliminate or curb entitlement programs, proposing private sector solutions and touting the importance of an “ownership society” in which individual citizens assume personal responsibility for their economic and health security. The election of a Democratic majority in the U.S. House and the slim margin of votes held by Democrats in the U.S. Senate may mean a shift in aging policy directions that strengthens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, if the newly elected members are able to maintain their seats over time. The results of the 2008 presidential election will also determine how the social, economic, and other policy concerns will be addressed as the baby boomers join the ranks of older Americans.
Daniel S. Gardner and Caroline Rosenthal Gelman
Minority and immigrant elders constitute a greater proportion of the population than ever before and are the fastest growing segment of the older population. Within these racial and ethnic groups there is considerable variation with regard to age, gender, country of origin, language, religion, education, income, duration of U.S. residency, immigration status, living arrangements, social capital, and access to resources. The authors summarize research on older adults regarding racial and ethnic disparities, barriers to health and social service utilization, and dynamics of family caregiving. Implications are offered for social-work practice, policy, and research.
Nancy Morrow-Howell and Leslie Hasche
Despite high levels of functioning among older adults, chronic health conditions lead to impairment and the need for help. Family members provide most of the assistance; yet formal services such as in-home personal and homemaker services, congregate and home-delivered meals, adult day services, employment and educational services, transportation, nursing homes, assisted and supportive living facilities, legal and financial services, and case management are available. Even with the growing number and type of services, unequal access and uneven quality persist. In these settings, social workers develop and administer programs, provide clinical care, offer case management and discharge planning, and contribute to policy development.