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Social Service Worker-Gerontology: Two decades of shaping our communities

May 22, 2015

Twenty years ago, most people working with older adults had no formal training in gerontology. There were few community based programs to support older adults to age in their home and even fewer to support family caregivers. Nursing homes and chronic care facilities didn’t see a role for social service workers, says Susan Pratten, Faculty and Co-founder of Sheridan’s Social Service Worker (SSW) - Gerontology program. Created in 1995, the program was only the second one of its kind in Ontario.

Today, these facilities are regularly requesting our students for placements. In fact, Sheridan’s program has developed such a strong network of community partnerships that there are now more agencies for practicum than students. One of the strongest partnerships the program has forged is with the Alzheimer’s Society of Peel, where about 60% of staff graduated from Sheridan.

Representatives from these community partners gathered with alumni, students and faculty on May 4 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the SSW – Gerontology program. Students and alumni spoke of the impact the program had on their professional and personal development, including Tara Rusin who graduates next month.  She produced graphics outlining highlights of both the SSW – Gerontology and the SSW programs. “Working alongside Nicole Johnson for the SSW 45th Anniversary (and the SSW – Gerontology reunion) was not only a privilege, but a great learning experience,” said Tara. “Nicole provided me with a chance to showcase my creativity through ideas and artwork that will remain with the program. The events were a success and will be remembered for years to come. Thank you for the memories." Tara’s graphic for the gerontology program appears below. The SSW program celebrated its 45 anniversary at a reunion in March that attracted numerous gerontology program alumni.

One of the program's earlier alumni is Kristy Knox.  For more than a decade, the 1999 graduate has been helping relieve pressure on families by providing short-term breathers to those caring for individuals with dementia. “Respite for the caregiver is instrumental in keeping people living with dementia in their community and out of long-term care facilities for a longer period of time,” says Kristy, Respite Manager at Alzheimer’s Peel.
Read more from Kristy here.

Learn about Sheridan’s Social Service Worker-Gerontology program.

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