About the Program

The University of Utah College of Social Work’s W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging was established in November, 2001 under the auspices of the College’s Social Research Institute (SRI). As such, this program has full access to the resources of SRI. The Goodwill Initiatives was created to promote practice, policy, and research in aging that will help to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families.

The W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging is involved in promoting activities that increase our awareness of societal aging issues, provide service to older adults in our community, educate students and collaborate with community partners. To accomplish this broad range of tasks, the Goodwill focuses their efforts on education, research, service, and community collaboration.

Education
Undergraduate and graduate social work students complete field internships with the Goodwill Initiatives’ Neighbors Helping Neighbors program. This venue provides opportunities for students to deepen their knowledge of the wide range of diverse needs of older adults and become familiar with the agencies that provide many of the necessary services. Student interns are educated in the Geriatric Social Work competencies, which prepare them to serve older adults in a variety of settings.

In the fall of 2010, the College of Social Work launched an Aging in Social Work Concentration for MSW students. With aging-related coursework and field placements, students who complete the emphasis are prepared for gerontologically-competent social work practice within any advanced domain of study.

A number of former interns have gone on to become leaders in the field of aging.

Research
The Goodwill Initiatives completes relevant research, helping us understand and improve services to older adults. Recent research projects include examining treatment outcomes for older adults with mental illness, tracking health outcomes for low income older adults in a community health clinic, determining the characteristics of older adults who apply for home and community-based services through an Area Agency on Aging, and exploring the well-being of older adults in long-term care settings.

Service
Since 1997, the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program has brought together segments of our community to address the unmet needs of older adults, helping them remain independent in their own homes. Under the supervision of College of Social Work faculty, graduate and undergraduate social work students conduct thorough clinical assessments of each elderly program participant. The students then practice their skills for preventative, rehabilitative, and support services by developing comprehensive, individualized care plans and mobilizing networks of community contacts to provide the necessary care and services.

At no cost to the participants, older adults receive a comprehensive assessments; assistance in navigating Medicare, Medicaid, and managed care systems; care management services; help addressing intergenerational and culturally diverse family needs; and education about disease prevention and health promotion. In addition to the services provided by student interns, many neighborhood volunteers, private corporations, county agencies, and philanthropic foundations come together under the auspices of the W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging to meet the identified needs of each participant in a timely manner, with a spirit of respect and dignity among all involved.

Currently, more than 100 older adults receive ongoing services, enabling them to remain in their own homes. We continue to expand our ability to assist older adults through scholarship support, volunteer service, grants and new community partnerships.

Community Collaboration
The W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging initiated a coalition comprised of for-profit, nonprofit, public and private agencies that service older adults throughout Utah. Thus far, the coalition has provided educational seminars and networking opportunities for students, its members, and the community at large. We are exploring options to expand trainings statewide through the use the technology available through the College of Social Work’s Wilford W. and Dorothy P. Goodwill Humanitarian Building.