Susan F. Allen and Elizabeth M. Tracy
Home visiting and home-based intervention are two strategies used by social workers when working with individuals or families in direct practice. The basic rationale for home-based work is the benefit to social workers’ assessments and understanding of clients, as well as the benefit of more relevant practice with families who are seen in the setting where difficulties are occurring. Home-based interventions have been shown to be effective in improving health and decreasing family discord. When visiting the home, the social worker has the added responsibility of respecting the privacy of families as a guest in their homes.
Social workers working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families require an understanding of the disabilities themselves as well as the larger context of disability in society. Individuals with disabilities face particular risks for poverty and poor healthcare, and it is essential for social workers to understand the complex web of social services available. Furthermore, social workers often work not only with the person with a disability but also with their caregiving families.
Nancy P. Kropf
Although the terms older adult and senior citizen are commonly defined as individuals 60 years and above, later adulthood contains various life-course phases and developmental periods. The “young-old,” defined as individuals in the age range of 60–75 years, often experience various health, social, and economic transitions. Both the individual and family systems must negotiate some of the concomitant changes that accompany the journey into later life. Therefore, this first decade of older adulthood is one that can simultaneously be enjoyable, exciting, demanding, and stressful for aging persons and their family.
Judith G. Gonyea
As a result of rising life expectancies, America’s older population is itself aging. The U.S. Census Bureau projections suggest that by the middle of the 21st century, more than 40% of Americans aged 65 and older can expect to live to at least the age of 90. Although the oldest-old is a diverse population, advanced old age is associated with a greater risk of experiencing economic hardship, disabling illnesses or health conditions, and social isolation. A growing public policy challenge will be ensuring the economic well-being, the health, and the dignity of society’s very oldest citizens.
Lani V. Jones
This entry provides an overview of the life-span perspective focusing on biological developments and social tasks all of which are embedded in a larger sociocultural context from birth to old age within diverse environments, cultures, and historical eras. This section will also focus on how the life-span perspective succeeds traditional life course models that assume to be universal, sequential, and predictable. The life-span perspective of social work departs from approaches based on traditional models that are narrow and focuses on personal deficits, pointing instead to strengths, continued growth, and environmental resources for individuals, families, groups, and communities. Finally, this entry will discuss how the life-span perspective shows great promise for encompassing theory of human development for the purpose of expanding knowledge, promoting “best practice” service delivery, policy regulation and research to enhance the lives of people with whom social workers come into contact.
Darrell P. Wheeler
Catherine N. Dulmus and Albert R. Roberts
This entry focuses on serious mental illness among adults, including those having serious and persistent mental illness. Social work's historic and current roles in service delivery are reviewed, its present trends in the field (including the recovery movement, evidence-based practices, comorbidity, and the integration of physical and mental health), as well as the service delivery system and the current needs and challenges it faces, are discussed.
Robert B. Hudson
In the American retirement income picture, private pensions occupy a critical but underused place. Roughly one-half of Americans do not have private pension coverage, and those who do not tend to be concentrated in the lower levels of the overall income distribution. Pension coverage and adequacy are reviewed here as is the place of private pensions in assuring income adequacy in old age. Pressures on Social Security and “traditional” pensions will make the place of defined contribution (401k-type plans) increasingly important to older individuals, including social workers.
Philip McCallion and Lisa A. Ferretti
The definition of retirement has become increasingly complex. Freedom from work, autonomy, and the pursuit of new interests are mediated by a sense of loss of value when employment ends, by the resource picture in retirement, and by the likelihood that current and boomer retirees are likely to spend more years in retirement. The viability of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and pensions is also of influence, and stereotypes of carefree years are thwarted by caregiving responsibilities and avoided by those continuing to seek fulfilling roles. Finally the experience of retirement continues to be different for important groups in society.
Paula S. Nurius and Charles P. Hoy-Ellis
Evolving understandings of stress have literally transformed how we think about health as contextualized within complex and multilevel transactions between individuals and their environment. We present core concepts of stress through the lens of life-course and life-span perspectives, emphasizing appraisal-based and biobehavioral models of stress response systems. We describe theories of allostatic load, embodiment, epigenetics, weathering processes, and accelerated aging that operationalize mechanisms through which stress affects health and contributes to health disparities. In addition to social determinant and life-span developmental perspectives on stress and health, we emphasize the value of health-promotive factors that can serve to buffer stress effects. Social work has important roles in targeting health-erosive stress from “neurons to neighborhoods”.