Boston University School of Social Work Students Participate in Innovative Boston GEM Consortium

in Humanities/Social Science, News Releases, School of Social Work
October 3rd, 2006

Contact: Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 |

(Boston) – As the number of older adults is expected to triple in the coming decades, new workforce opportunities have emerged for social workers who specialize in aging. As the baby boom generation ages and life expectancy grows, demand for social workers continues to increase. Yet a 2004 national survey by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) states that only four percent of social workers currently specialize in aging. In addition, nearly 30 percent of licensed social workers are over 55 and poised to retire in the next decade.

This year, the Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) is responding to this need by inviting a group of six masters students to participate in the innovative Boston Geriatric Education Model (GEM) Consortium program to train the next generation of social workers to work with older adults.

Boston University School of Social Work is one of 35 schools participating in the Practicum Partnership Program (PPP), a national initiative to educate over 1,000 social workers in aging over the next eight years created by the New York Academy of Medicine’s Social Work Leadership Institute with funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation.

The MSW program at Boston University was awarded $75,000 over three years to establish a PPP. Among many innovations of the program are partnerships between the University, service agencies, and institutions in local communities. Students are also placed in diverse service settings to provide a range of social work services across the broad spectrum of older adult care, from the recently-retired-and-still-active, to frailer adults who require round-the-clock attention.

“This very important social work education program highlights the need for geriatric social workers, notes Susan Cavanaugh, a BUSSW alumna and field instructor. “The Boston GEM Consortium is a well-developed program for recruitment in this field. It is a great idea to have primary and enrichment placements that offer this broader perspective for students.”

Initial evaluations of the PPP model demonstrate that over 80 percent of PPP graduates went on to pursue careers in the aging field. The Social Work Leadership Institute aspires to establish the PPP field education model as the norm in training aging specialists at graduate schools of social work across the country.

“The Boston GEM Consortium program has been a wonderful introduction to the field of geriatric social work,” adds Susan Cocchiarella, a former GEM student. “Having never worked with elders prior to this experience, I feel that the program has given me a broad overview of the services for and needs of seniors. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in this program.”

The School of Social Work at Boston University is one of the oldest schools of social work in the country and is known for its research and training in the areas of substance abuse, gerontology, health and mental health, and children and youth, and for the involvement of its faculty in community-based projects.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

For more information regarding the Boston GEM Consortium, please contact Reeve Goldhaber at 617-353-7009 or

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