This year, the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) has called on social workers to support youth development, reach healthcare parity, and reduce family violence. Are you ready to reach out and tackle another need in American society? Of course! We’re social workers with the passion and training to make justice happen!
Here’s what we’re working toward in April:
Modern scientific advancement has resulted in some incredible advances. Adults in America live longer lives than ever, with the average lifespan being around 80, and at the same time technology is advancing our culture more than ever. But as these positive things happen, the AASWSW notices decreased workforce participation in the youngest and oldest members of American society. Their goal is to create more participation and engagement opportunities in all age groups:
Over the course of a lifetime, we will create opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills and to utilize talents and resources in a variety of paid and unpaid roles that maximize health, foster economic security, provide purpose in life, and enrich families and communities.
Jobs are getting increasingly automated in the United States. While this is helping businesses advance, it’s becoming more difficult for adults to find work with the skill sets for industries experiencing automation. The squeeze is felt in particular by our youngest adults in the workforce, aged 16 to 24 years. Unemployment rates are higher than in decades past in this age group, and the AASWSW’s cited research describes over 14% (more than one in seven) of American young adults as not working or enrolled in school.
Citing historical programs dating back to the Great Depression, the AASWSW supports service learning as a way to reengage and encourage contributions by young adults. They strongly support dramatically increasing the size of programs like Americorps, which pays young adults a stipend and educational scholarships for participating in structured volunteering programs. These programs give young adults valuable work experience, and studies show they make young people more civic-minded and communally engaged. The AASWSW also hopes to engage adults from all backgrounds in these opportunities, as current participants are disproportionately white and from higher socioeconomic classes.
With Americans living longer lives than ever, adults at retirement age and older face new, unique challenges. Americans now often live for decades after retiring, and in addition to needing income beyond social security payments, often wish to pursue a new work life beyond retirement. Others are caregivers for loved ones or participating in the community as volunteers. Many older adults face barriers in work and volunteer engagement later in life, running up against ageist stereotypes and having difficulty finding opportunities that meet their needs.
The AASWSW supports working to change attitudes towards older adults, seeing the positive ways they contribute to society rather than as burdens on the system. They support the creation of policy initiatives and work and volunteer training that would make it easier for older adults to start businesses, begin new careers, and engage in civic service. For older adults interested in service learning, initial recruitment efforts have helped increase the number of adults over 50 join the Peace Corps, while programs like Experience Corps have brought older adults into urban schools.
To be a champion of this cause, become an advocate of the youngest and oldest members of our adult society, including supporting ways younger and older adults can support one another.
You can read the AASWSW’s report on policy initiatives that will support engagement from emerging and older adults here: Advance Long and Productive Lives.
The needs of emerging and older adulthood in modern society are relatively new areas of research, making it important for all social workers, whether students or practitioners, to stay aware of new developments in this topic.
In your own work or studies, stay informed about policy initiatives that will support this Grand Challenge. Continue to combat stereotypes the general population has about younger and older adults in your own life, and vote for government representatives who support service initiative engagement programs.
If you missed our previous posts about the AASWSW's Grand Challenges, you can catch up here!