Training Workshop on Social Work Practice with Older Adults Held at NYU Shanghai

The NYU-ECNU Institute for Social Development at NYU Shanghai hosted a two-day training workshop on Social Work Practice with Older Adults on October 24-25, 2015. Dr. Tazuko Shibusawa, Associate Professor at the Silver School of Social Work and Collaborating Faculty of the Institute, was invited to provide the training and shared her knowledge and skills in geriatric care. Thirty participants, including medical and social work professionals from hospitals and social service agencies across China, attended the workshop.

With the increase in the size of the world population over age 65, public health programs and policies designed to maintain a healthy aging population are more important than ever and are needed on local, national, and global scales. In 2000, close to 90 million adults age 65 and older were living in China, and this number is predicted to increase to over 300 million by 2050, representing 30% of the population. In some Chinese cities such as Shanghai people over age 65 already make up 30% of the population. The number of elders ages 80 and older, the oldest-old, is expected to nearly quadruple in China from 12 million in the year 2000 to 40 million by 2030. With this rapid increase in the elderly population, public and private spending for health care in China has surpassed the rate of economic growth. The Institute acknowledges the increasing importance of aging issues and thus launched the first in the series on aging care. These focus on the roles and functions of the social work profession in this important field.

Dr. Shibusawa completed post-graduate training in family therapy, psychotherapy, and international trauma studies after receiving her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her clinical experiences include the director of social services at Keiro Nursing Home in Los Angeles, California; psychiatric social worker, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Asian Pacific Counseling & Treatment Center; co-director of Counseling International in Tokyo, Japan; and mental health consultant for the World Health Organization.

Dr. Shibusawa systematically introduced the theory and skills in geriatric care by covering multiple topics such as biopsychosocial social work assessment, common stressors, challenges faced by older adults, professional helping relationships, social work practice and techniques, and family caregiving. In each different topic, role-plays were used to allow the participants to get hands-on experience in 'how to' provide social work professional knowledge and skills in working with the elderly. Participants expressed their strong interests in and appreciation of the role-play, through which they were able to practice theory and knowledge, such as communicating empathy and building trust into real practice. Every participant had the chances to act as either social workers or the elderly, and then they shared their understanding and uncertainties, and what may need to be enhanced in their social work practice in real life. Many participants also shared their own experience in working with the elderly in China and the challenges they are facing. The participants found the workshop to be an excellent platform for them to form the support network with peers from different agencies and different cities and also expressed their expectations to have more workshops like this to cover more details and to allow more opportunities to discuss.