Lauren Snedeker is the Coordinator for the Aging & Health Certificate Program at Rutgers School of Social Work. Rutgers University’s School of Social Work has a Master’s certificate in Social Work in Aging and Health that offers students the opportunity to take a select number of classes that focus on aging and health and experience fieldwork toward their degree in aging and health-related settings.
“We are really interested and dedicated to debunking the myths around aging and connecting with more agencies that service older adults that one wouldn’t associate with aging,” said Snedeker.
One example she gave is the fact that it is not just the general population who are greying, but also the prison population. Other communities such as the homeless or those affected by substance abuse or the opioid epidemic are not less affected by aging.
“These fields are not exclusive to younger people and if we are living longer we are living with all of our stuff!” said Snedeker.
Snedeker’s academic team is committed to exposing students not just to older people in senior homes and hospitals but in the whole range of life that aging affects. With that in mind, she shared some of the aging myths she likes to debunk with her students.
After years of working with older adults, Snedeker knows first hand that the work can be fun and engaging. One of her favorite opportunities was working at a senior center where they had a number of discussion topics.
“One talk was about sex after 60. We were reading a book (not 50 Shades of Grey, another book) and the book and our conversation helped these women be seen as human beings and not just older adults.”
Aging doesn’t mean that you don’t have all the same desires and needs as you did in your youth! There need to be more conversations around these lesser spoken about aspects of aging that affect large portions of the population. Topics from sex and relationships as one ages to greying prisoners, homeless people on the streets, and those battling substance abuse. Everyone is greying, and taking their problems both big and small with them!
Baby boomers aren’t always who you think they are and yet they can be many things. They aren’t suits and ties. They grew up in the 60s and many experimented with drugs. They pioneered the public LGBT movement. They fought for civil rights and equality. They are parents. They are single. They are divorced. They live in multi-generational homes. They have multi-lingual and multi-ethnic family structures. This demographic has different people and diverse values. If we don’t start to recognize that we won’t be able to serve the needs of these individuals.
Communities are rising to address these positive aspects of aging. GetSetUp for example is offering economic opportunities and learning opportunities to seniors to teach their peers technology, how to use various online tools, and other skills around staying connected. Everything Zoomer is the lifestyle site for the discriminating, with features ranging from food & entertainment, celebrity & style, arts & culture, sex & relating, health & fitness, travel & finance … and so much more! Sixty and Me is a women’s blog dedicated to empowering women over 60. Boomer Cafe is a site for where baby boomers with active, youthful lifestyles share stories and it gives all baby boomers a “voice.”
More and more communities like this are popping up to tailor to older adults at large or around more segmented topics. Nevertheless, society as a whole needs to look at a few key questions.
Aging comes with a big-ticket price tag depending on the level of care and comfort required in many cases double or triple what an individual was usually spending for a similar quality of life when they were younger. We need to create communities and care methods that provide affordable support, economic opportunities, and community engagement — Older people are here and we need to assure our community is supporting them!
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