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Social worker visits with an older adult

Master of Social Work Area of Emphasis

Social Work Practice with Older Adults

Area of Emphasis in Aging Scholars

Demographic changes have created a need for social workers with interest, education and experience working with older adults and their families. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be older than 65, and one in five US residents will be of retirement age (US Census Projections, 2017). The number of Minnesotans turning 65 in the current decade will be greater than the past four decades combined. For the first time in history, Minnesota's 65+ population is expected to eclipse the population of individuals age 5-17 (MN State Demographic Center, 2018).

Gerontological social work is social work practice with older adults - primarily focused on maintaining and enhancing their quality of life. Gero-social work includes attention to physical, social, familial, cultural, community and societal factors that serve as barriers to the well-being of older adults and their families. As an Area of Emphasis in Aging Scholar, you'll work with faculty, alumni and community members who focus on the field of aging to develop specialized knowledge and training for serving older adults and their families.

Priority application deadline: March 15*
Extended deadline: May 1
All newly admitted Advanced Standing (AS) and Regular Standing (RS) MSW students are eligible to apply. Admitted students can access the application, when available, through OneStThomas.

The AEA Scholars program was piloted through a generous grant from the Council on Social Work Education Gero-Ed Center Specialized Gerontology Program and is sustained through support from the School of Social Work.

*Applications accepted past March 15 on a space available basis.


Tanya Rand, EdD, MSW, LICSW

Clinical Faculty and Coordinator of Aging Service
Phone Number
An older man plays chess

Program Details

During your MSW program, you'll experience unique opportunities to advance your training for working with older populations, including:

  • Courses, assignments, research and events specific to the aging population
  • Leadership opportunities within your cohort
  • Clinical practicum providing services to the aging population

Students accepted into program also receive a tuition remission of $1,000 during their final semester.
Area of Emphasis in Aging Scholars must take three electives that support clinical practice with older adults:

  • Clinical Practice with Older Adults
  • Grief Counseling and Therapy or Clinical Social Work Practice in Integrative Health Care
  • Third elective of your choosing

A young girl and her grandmother pose together outdoors

Gero Social Work Newsletter

Interested in learning more about the work of the Area of Emphasis in Aging Scholars? Read the Gero Social Work Newsletter to learn about scholars' research and presentations, the latest events in support of older adults and other news from around the program.

Download Newsletter

Read Past Newsletters

Read past newsletters from the Area of Emphasis in Practice with Older Adults.

Dr. Sunghwan Cho's Journey as Social Worker and Priest

Meet an Alum

Headshot of Dr. Sunghwan Cho

Serving Two Callings

Blending Faith and Social Work for Older Adults

Master of Social Work alumnus and AEA Scholar Dr. Sunghwan making waves as an associate professor in the School of Social Welfare at the Catholic University of Korea. Through his work and research, he hopes to share the joys of working with a population that too often goes overlooked in the social services professions. 

Read the Story

The program really helped me expand my knowledge of the older adult population, which I believe everyone should be more familiar with. Being at the forefront of the learning and the research on aging is something that I'll be able to take with me and expand upon in my own clinical practice.

Rachel Girard, MSW '14, Area of Emphasis in Aging Scholar